GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jacob Eason has been one of the major storylines this week for the Florida-Georgia game, due in large part to his recruiting process.
The former 5-star quarterback committed to the Bulldogs just before his junior year of high school. Eason was solid on that pledge until Nov. 29, 2015, when UGA fired coach Mark Richt.
Two days later, Eason was in Gainesville officially visiting Florida. He and UF offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier had a relationship dating back Nussmeier’s days at Washington, Eason’s home state.
So the Gators had a fighting chance, but they also needed to play the waiting game. Dawg Nation recruiting reporter Jeff Sentell covered Eason’s recruitment closely in the final month.
“When Georgia had the changeover and Eason didn’t know who was going to be the head coach and who was going to be the offensive coordinator, he and his family looked at a plan-B option in case they didn’t like those hires,” Sentell said. “That’s what that trip to Florida was largely about. He had been so steadfast with Georgia that he hadn’t taken other visits. So he needed to see what else was out there and he had interest in Florida.”
That was not enough to surpass the Bulldogs, however, after they hired Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. Eason reaffirmed his commitment on Dec. 15 following his official visit to Georgia.
But what if Eason, the nation’s No. 2 pro-style quarterback and No. 5 overall prospect, had flipped to Florida?
“What it’s done at Georgia is every recruit has been kind of enamored, especially at the receiver position, because their best shot at making the NFL is having a big-time quarterback that can get them the ball,” Sentell said. “His arm kind of attracts attention the way Mark Mcgwire did hitting home runs at batting practice. It’s a spectacle and recruits are energized by that. So Eason would’ve helped Florida’s receiver recruiting, but he might have scared away a guy like Jake Allen. Eason casts a big shadow.”
Though the jury is still out on Florida quarterback Luke Del Rio, his knowledge of Nussmeier’s offense likely would have earned him the starting job over Eason. This question was posed Friday on Twitter and more than 1,700 people voted in the poll.
The result was a 50-50 split.
If 5-star QB Jacob Eason had flipped to the Gators, would he be their starter right now?
— Zach Abolverdi (@ZachAbolverdi) October 28, 2016
Aftermath of Eason’s decision
Despite missing on Eason, Florida still recruited well at quarterback last year. U.S. Army All-American and Elite 11 finalist Feleipe Franks enrolled early in January along with Kyle Trask, who was the surprise of the spring.
The Gators are able to redshirt both freshmen this year because of Austin Appleby, a graduate transfer who started in place of an injured Del Rio against Tennessee and Vanderbilt. Though Eason has more talent and upside, Appleby is an experienced backup and worked as a short-term solution.
For the future, UF coach Jim McElwain and Nussmeier have Allen committed for 2017 to stay at four quarterbacks on the roster. Florida is also in the running for Trevor Lawrence and Artur Sitowski, the nation’s No. 1 and No. 4 pro-style quarterbacks in the 2018 cycle.
So while the Gators couldn’t land “the future of the SEC” in Eason, they’re still in a good spot at QB and have upgraded the position under McElwain.