ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Kirby Smart wants Georgia's 18 returning starters on offense and defense to feel the heat of competition this spring. That includes quarterback Jacob Eason.
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Kirby Smart wants Georgia's 18 returning starters on offense and defense to feel the heat of competition this spring.
That includes quarterback Jacob Eason.
Smart opened his second spring practice as coach on Tuesday. Familiarity in Smart's system can make players more confident about their assignments, but the coach doesn't want that feeling of comfort to go too far.
"As spring goes along, a lot of guys can get complacent," Smart said. "You worry about guys saying 'OK, well I had my job last year so I'll have my job again this year.' That's not the way it's going to be for us. We're going to challenge them to compete every day."
As a freshman, Eason started the last 12 games as Georgia finished 8-5, a disappointing debut for Smart.
Georgia's strength will be its running game led by senior tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who combined to run for almost 2,000 yards last season. Chubb has 3,424 yards rushing for his career, second to Herschel Walker on Georgia's all-time list.
Georgia has only two scholarship players at quarterback, as Brice Ramsey will transfer for his final year of eligibility after spring semester. Smart said Ramsey agreed to serve as a student coach this spring, giving the Bulldogs an extra arm for passing drills.
The coach explained that Ramsey won't actually run practice plays but will stay sharp while looking for another school to play as a graduate transfer.
"He's loyal to this program," Smart said. "He's been very appreciative and has handled everything in a first-class manner. We asked him to help and he said 'Absolutely, I'll come out there.'"
Freshman Jake Fromm of Houston County High School in Warner Robins, Georgia, will compete with Eason. Georgia's only other quarterback is walk-on Sam Vaughn.
Smart said there are "some really good preferred-type walk-on guys coming in in the fall" to help at quarterback, but the position must be bolstered in the 2018 signing class.
Smart insists Fromm, who enrolled early for spring drills, is legitimate competition for Eason.
"He has a really good understanding," Smart said of Fromm. "He was really coached well in high school and played in a system that was complicated from a scheme standpoint and a coverage standpoint. He comes in ahead of your normal, average freshman. He's going out there with the intent of winning over that job and winning over the team. That's what we expect him to come out and compete and do."
It would be a surprise for Fromm to pass Eason on the depth chart. Eason threw for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns with eight interceptions as a freshman.
Senior tight end Jeb Blazevich said Eason has shown growth as a leader this offseason, including in the players' voluntary workouts without coaches.
"He's always had a lot of great things to say but he's finally getting us on the same page as him, leading," Blazevich said. "... He's not afraid to bark at guys when he needs to. It's great seeing him come out of his shell and really start to emerge as more of a vocal leader."
Eason was not made available for interviews on Tuesday.
NOTES: Georgia WR Riley Ridley, arrested on misdemeanor marijuana charges earlier this month, faces internal discipline, according to Smart. "We do not condone that behavior," Smart said, adding he expects Ridley "is going to learn a valuable lesson from this mistake." ... After using a remote location for its 2016 practices due to the ongoing construction of its indoor facility, Georgia was back on its practice fields on Tuesday. Blazevich said having to take buses to practice last season "was miserable. ... Thankfully, we're over that hurdle."