The 2016 season is over, and rosters are starting to come together for 2017. It’s the perfect time to evaluate each team’s quarterback situation for next season.
Quarterback issues were a significant part of the SEC’s struggles last season, but starters return at 12 of the 14 conference schools. The turnaround should be immediate.
Georgia boasts one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the SEC, but the results weren’t always there in 2016. Trying to get the most out of Jacob Eason will be the top priority.
To clarify, this grade takes into account a team’s entire quarterback situation, including backups. Just having a great starter isn’t necessarily good enough to earn a quality grade.
Make sure and read all our previous quarterback installments:
Key returners: Jacob Eason (sophomore), Brice Ramsey (senior)
Key departures: Greyson Lambert (graduation)
Key additions: Jake Fromm (true freshman)
Returning production: 204-370 for 2,430 yards, 16 TDs, 8 INTs
Departing production: 7-12 for 56 yards
The 2016 season was a banner year for what could have been at the University of Georgia.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson emerged as the most clutch player in football, leading the Tigers to their second national championship. Shortly after the game, an old tweet from Watson’s account went viral: “It’s funny how Mike Bobo don’t think I’m good enough to play at Georgia. Lol.” Watson set numerous Georgia state records at Gainesville High School, an hour’s drive from Athens.
Elsewhere, an inconsistent but productive Josh Dobbs led Tennessee to consecutive 9-win seasons under Butch Jones. The Vols even posted their most productive offensive season in 2016, in terms of points and touchdowns scored. Dobbs is from Alpharetta, Ga., just outside of Atlanta.
Got to keep athletes like Watson in the state of Georgia??
— Todd Gurley II (@TG3II) January 10, 2017
Firing Mark Richt after the 2015 season was harsh, especially considering he averaged 9.7 wins per year. After Aaron Murray graduated following the 2013 season, you can credit almost all the Bulldogs’ recent struggles to irredeemable mistakes evaluating quarterbacks. Georgia fans are praying Richt’s final gift will put an end to the madness.
Jacob Eason was fine in his first season after coming in as the No. 5 overall recruit in the nation. He wasn’t especially impressive, but he was fine. There were flashes of brilliance, like leading the Bulldogs to a fourth-quarter comeback in his first road start against Missouri. There were also plenty of lows, like losing to Vanderbilt at Sanford Stadium.
Ultimately, his 55.1 completion percentage, 6.6 yards per attempt and 120.3 passer rating ranked much closer to the bottom of the SEC than the leaders. Fellow true freshmen Jake Bentley (South Carolina) and Jalen Hurts (Alabama) had better numbers in each metric, and neither was as highly regarded as Eason. That said, a 16-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio is more than passable for a true freshman.
The mistakes weren’t all his fault. Football Outsiders ranked Georgia’s offensive line as the 101st unit in the nation — out of 128 — and didn’t fit the pro-style offense Jim Chaney tried to install. Going against Derek Barnett, Caleb Brantley and Carl Lawson, that won’t cut it. The receivers had a plethora of drops. Those things will improve with time and recruiting.
Even with the excuses, Eason’s performance was admittedly underwhelming. The talent is clearly there, but Georgia’s coaching staff must do a better job putting him in positions to succeed.
But despite the disappointment, the Bulldogs still have to feel good about having a talented quarterback under center and no quarterback battle. In previous seasons, the Bulldogs had to maneuver between Brice Ramsey and Greyson Lambert, two players the staff didn’t particularly want on the field. Eason isn’t a strikeout — that much is clear.
Georgia has some options at backup quarterback. Incredibly, Ramsey, a former top 100 recruit, was again pressed into duty as a punter last season. He’s pretty good at it, but that feels close to unprecedented for such a heralded player. With Lambert lost to graduation, Ramsey could move back to quarterback.
The Bulldogs also welcome 4-star quarterback and No. 46 overall player Jake Fromm as an early enrollee. Kirby Smart probably will try to redshirt Fromm, but don’t be shocked if he pushes for the backup quarterback job.
While the Bulldogs receive this slightly above-average grade, consider it to be more of an incomplete. Eason can improve it rapidly with a breakout performance next season.