In the first quarter of Georgia's 31-23 victory over TCU in the Liberty Bowl last December, the Bulldogs faced third-and-8 at their 16-yard line.
Quarterback Jacob Eason scrambled left and threw to Isaiah McKenzie, who raced into open field for a 77-yard gain to TCU's 7. It was the longest pass play of Georgia's season, and it began with Eason's feet.
Eason scrambled to his right on third-and-8 against Florida before firing a 38-yard strike to Terry Godwin — Georgia's biggest highlight play in an otherwise mundane 24-10 setback — so why didn't he choose to run out of trouble more often?
"A lot of it was freshman nerves," Eason said after the Liberty Bowl. "Moving around wasn't my big thing and wasn't my skill set, so I wasn't comfortable doing that. Now, when the opportunity is there, you've got to take it."
Running was never hailed as the 6-foot-5, 235-pounder's primary asset last winter, when he enrolled early as the top quarterback nationally according to ESPN and Rivals.com. It wasn't by the end of last season, either, but Eason had discovered using his feet was getting him out of dire predicaments.
Eason had 15- and 8-yard runs against TCU in Memphis, with the former his longest of the season, topping a 12-yard scramble at Missouri. His coaches hope to see more of that ability.
"He's got to understand where the sticks are and to go get them," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said after the Liberty Bowl. "He scrambled for a couple of first downs that were big momentum swings, and I just think that Jacob is growing up."
Said offensive coordinator Jim Chaney: "He's still just so young that he doesn't always know when to do it."
Eason isn't the first strong-armed quarterback for the Bulldogs to learn the value of running occasionally to keep defenses guessing. When Matthew Stafford was a freshman in 2006, he rushed seven times for 83 yards — including a 39-yard carry and a 9-yard touchdown — during a 37-15 upset rout of No. 5 Auburn, Georgia's most impressive performance that season.
Smart said in Memphis that Bulldogs tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel spent time with Eason during the bowl practices to teach him some tricks of the trade.
"With the two best running backs in the nation, it's not hard to learn from them to see what they do," Eason said. "Obviously I'm not going to run like them, but they give me an idea."
Eason is not expected to resemble Cam Newton or Deshaun Watson later this year, but perhaps the experience he gained as a freshman will result in more than 63 rushing yards (excluding sacks) and even more big plays when he scrambles out of the pocket.
"There were a lot of ups and downs and wins and losses, and there definitely are some things I would love to take back," Eason said. "I learned a lot, which was the biggest part, so going into next season, I need to learn from those mistakes and build on the good things I did.
"Running is definitely not one of my strengths, but there are definitely times where I can scamper for a couple of yards and get a first down."
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.