For Georgia freshman quarterback Jacob Eason, the Liberty Bowl represents a last chance to make a first impression.
Eason has experienced ups and downs this season for the 7-5 Bulldogs, displaying his touted arm in the final seconds against Tennessee but unraveling in the final minutes against Georgia Tech. Bowl practices are coveted by coaches, and Georgia's Kirby Smart cites the 6-foot-5, 235-pounder as a perfect example of why.
"Every mental rep he gets and every walk-through rep he gets and every live 7-on-7 rep — he needs as many as he can get to see coverages and different pressures," Smart said this week. "I think this is really important for him and his growth, and he gets that."
The Bulldogs will hold their first of eight on-campus workouts this afternoon for their Dec. 30 matchup against TCU. They will practice through next Wednesday before taking off for Christmas, and they are scheduled to reconvene in Memphis on Dec. 26.facebook
Eason backed up Greyson Lambert in the opening win over North Carolina in Atlanta but assumed the starting role after completing 8 of 12 passes against the Tar Heels for 131 yards and a touchdown. That translated into a passer rating of 185.9, which would be his highest of the season.
Within the Southeastern Conference, Eason ranks sixth in passing yards (2,266) and 10th in completion rate (55.01 percent). There are two notable categories, however, in which he ranks 14th in the league — yards per attempt (6.49) and passer rating (118.21) — trailing even the struggling Florida duo of Austin Appleby and Luke Del Rio.
A quality performance at the Liberty Bowl might help Eason erase his most recent outing, a 14-of-27, 139-yard performance in the 28-27 loss to the Yellow Jackets that included one touchdown and two interceptions. One of his interceptions was a desperation attempt on the game's final play, but it was his first two-interception game this year.
"He's spent a lot of time these last couple of weeks in the film room, looking back at the year and the good things he did and the bad things he did," Smart said. "The growth of a quarterback is through reps in practice and by experience, so all these experiences have grown him.
"He's got to do a better job of commanding the huddle for our team and being a leader, and I think these practices will allow him to do that."
Georgia will enter the Liberty Bowl tied for 105th with Florida International among the 128 Bowl Subdivision teams in scoring offense at 24.0 points per game. The Bulldogs ranked eighth nationally two years ago (41.3) before slipping to 85th last season (26.3).
This year's figure is Georgia's lowest since 1998, when the Bulldogs averaged 23.3 points in their 11-game regular season. Had postseason totals been included then, Georgia would have averaged 24.3 points per game due to its 35-33 edging of Virginia in the Peach Bowl.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.