Jacob Eason didn’t lose the starting quarterback job. He wasn’t beaten out.
But Eason has been Georgia’s backup quarterback by circumstance, due to a late hit and a true freshman who seized an opportunity.
Eason was rolling to his right in Georgia’s season-opener against Appalachian State before running out of bounds. After he stepped out, Appalachian State defensive end Myquon Stout hit him, which caused Eason's leg to plant awkwardly. Eason tried to walk off the injury but fell to the turf. He was later diagnosed with a sprained knee and would be ruled out for the next two games.
It was initially assumed Eason would get his job back when healthy. Then quarterback Jake Fromm entered the picture and played better than anyone could have anticipated in his first season on campus. He sparked Georgia against Appalachian State and led his team to a game-winning field goal drive against Notre Dame. He helped engineer a blowout over Mississippi State two weeks after that.
From there, it was clear Fromm would stick as Georgia’s No. 1 quarterback. For any competitor, that’s a hard scenario to deal with. If Eason wasn’t injured, who knows what his season could have been?
But Eason has taken the hand he was dealt in stride, especially considering that the injury he suffered came on a hit that could have easily been avoided.
“Things happen in life,” Eason said. “You just have to accept them, move on and learn from the situation.”
It’s hard to argue with the decision to stick with Fromm based on how the year has gone. Georgia is 12-1 and ranked No. 3 in the nation. The Bulldogs are slated to face No. 2 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, which will serve as a semifinal game for the College Football Playoff.
Fromm has completed 63 percent of his passes for 2,173 yards, 21 touchdowns and five interceptions. In Georgia's 28-7 SEC Championship win over Auburn, Fromm completed 16 of 22 attempts for 183 yards and two touchdowns.
When Eason found out Fromm would remain the starting quarterback, he chose to embrace the new role. Fromm, who was sitting next to Eason in the post-game locker room following Georgia’s victory over Auburn, said the Lake Stevens, Washington native couldn’t have been any better in adjusting as a backup.
“Jacob is incredible. Whether he was sitting beside me right now or not sitting next to me at all I would say the same thing,” Fromm said. “He’s there to cut up and laugh with me. He’s there to tell me what’s going on when I’m coming off of the sideline. He’s just been awesome for me.”
Eason may have a decision to make following the conclusion of the season. With Eason a year ahead of Fromm, the question of transferring to another school for a starting opportunity certainly exists. Eason told reporters he isn’t thinking of that at this time.
In the meantime, Eason has continued to approach each practice the same as he did when he was a starter.
“He’s still around every single day being as positive as he can, helping out in every single way that Coach asks him to do,” right guard Ben Cleveland said. “He’s a great leader for this team. His time’s going to come back around. There’s not a doubt in my mind about it.”
As a freshman in 2016, Eason completed 55 percent of his throws for 2,430 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He beat out Fromm during the spring and never came close to surrendering his lead during the preseason.
The Georgia coaching staff was confident in what Eason would offer as its quarterback. Then the injury happened. Then Fromm proved to be a gamer.
Through it all, Eason did his part not to let what transpired affect him negatively.
“I’m there for Jake, he’s there for me,” Eason said. “When I got hurt, I wasn’t going to be selfish. It’s about the team, the team, the team.”