KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — When Tennessee rolls into Sanford Stadium on Saturday, it’ll face a Georgia attack with questions along the offensive line, a freshman at quarterback and a hobbled Nick Chubb.
Good news for the ‘Orange Swarm?’
Tennessee remains wary of UGA’s offensive prowess, as defensive coordinator Bob Shoop believes the Bulldogs have left plenty of plays on the field over the first month of the season.
Georgia ranks No. 7 in the SEC in passing offense, averaging 216.3 yards per game. In four games, freshman quarterback Jacob Eason has 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, but Shoops says the Dawgs have the potential to be a truly explosive offensive with the gunslinger at the helm.
“Jacob Eason is the real deal,” Shoop said.
“When you watch him on film, just put on the two minute drill at the end of the half against Missouri. He made every throw. He’s very, very, very talented and when he gets hot, he can do this thing.”
Eason, a 5-star recruit and the No. 5 overall prospect in the Class of 2016, struggled in UGA’s 45-14 loss at Ole Miss last weekend.
Playing behind a leaky offensive line, the freshman completed just 16 of 36 passes for 137 yards and an interception. The Bulldogs were plagued by drops, too, including a couple touchdowns in the first half.
“It’s weird. I think they’d admit it, too. They’ve dropped a lot of passes,” Shoop said.
“Dropped passes are like hidden yards. It’s hard to gauge them because you know they’re not going to (keep dropping balls). It’s like a baseball pitcher. You know they’re hitting the ball against you, but they’re hitting it right at your infielders. So there’s outs, but you know, ‘Oh boy. These guys could break out at any time.’ Well that’s what they are.
“They aren’t going to drop balls forever. They’re too good. (Terry) Godwin is too good. (Reggie) Davis is too good. I keep warning our guys. Don’t be deceived. These guys can throw the ball and run the ball really well.”
Georgia’s offensive line has had difficulties protecting Eason this year, surrendering 12 sacks — second-most in the SEC.
But Tennessee’s players noticed Eason’s early-season moxie, with All-American pass rusher Derek Barnett saying the quarterback “doesn’t look like a freshman,” adding, “He’s taken some big hits but he’s gotten right up.”
Volunteers safety Todd Kelly Jr. called Eason “a good quarterback,” and said the key to stopping Georgia’s aerial attack is slowing down the explosive slot receiver Isaiah McKenzie.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete,” Kelly Jr. said.
“We will really have to try and shut him down. He runs the ball, gets screens, tailback screens, smoke screens, deep balls, jet sweeps, he can do a lot.”