Jacob Eason’s game against Auburn was the first where he seemed to consistently connect on the deep ball to his receiving targets.
His first shot down the field was to receiver Javon Wims for 40 yards on a ball only his teammate could catch. It would come back to due to a holding penalty, although that throw helped set the stage for Eason’s day.
Eason added a 57-yarder to Riley Ridley and had another deep throw to the fellow true freshman that would’ve gone for a big gain if not for a missed pass interference call on Auburn’s Javaris Davis.
Eason also threw a key 26-yarder to Isaiah McKenzie in the fourth quarter, a pass thrown right in between two defenders in coverage.
The learning curve from high school to college football has been obvious at times this season. But Eason has started to settle in and has shown a great deal of improvement in the past two games against Kentucky and Auburn.
"I think some of that is instincts and just naturally seeing things come open," head coach Kirby Smart said. "There were times early in the year where he didn’t look in the right spot but he threw receivers open. I think his accuracy helps with preventing the other mistakes because if you’re accurate you can throw it to the wrong place but you can throw it to our guy and not their guy. I hope he continues to grow in that department."
Against Auburn, Eason completed 20 of 31 passes, which is good for a completion percentage of 64.5. He’s now totaled 60 percent or greater in four games this season. Eason’s thrown for 1,962 yards and 11 touchdowns through 10 games.
Correlating with Eason’s accuracy on the deep ball has been his ability to limit mistakes in the passing game. After going through a five-game streak with an interception each time out, Eason has gone without a pick in four consecutive games.
While there were a couple of near-interceptions against Auburn, Eason’s decision making has gotten better, which has limited him to only five picks for the season.
"He hates throwing interceptions in practice," receiver Isaiah McKenzie said. "He watches film and tries not to make those mistakes. When he throws interceptions in practice, he comes back, works on it and gets better."
Smart also noted that Eason has been fortunate on a few passes but that more often than not, he’s settling in and making the right decisions.
"I think he has been lucky some. He’s also been unlucky some," Smart said. "I think back to South Carolina, one got tipped straight up in the air (and got intercepted). You’re going to give and take on some of the breaks. He hasn’t had a whole lot of bone-headed plays."
Another attribute of Eason has been his toughness in the pocket.
Against Auburn, Eason took two sacks and was hit rather hard in the process. Each time, much like in previous games, Eason shook off the hits and came back to the pocket without any concern.
"He’s tough as nails, definitely," offensive guard Dyshon Sims said. "Seeing him get back up and knowing that he’s going to keep trusting in us, that just motivates us to be better."
He’s also asserted himself more in the huddle. Early in the year, the seniors were able to fill the leadership role in between plays.
Now that Eason is comfortable in the offense and making checks at the line of scrimmage, he’s begun to make his voice heard. Eason’s certainly come a long way since the start of the 2016 season.
"He’s more of a vocal leader now," Sims said. "You can tell that when we’re in the huddles. He takes control. He motivates us and gets us ready to go. He’s a good guy back there and we try our best to protect him and that’s all you can do."