On paper, 2016 was a down year for Georgia. The Bulldogs finished 8-5, this after winning at least 10 games in four of the previous five seasons.
But consider this: Three of Georgia’s five losses came by a combined five points, including one-point losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs also started a freshman quarterback, which is never easy in the SEC.
Still, Jacob Eason was solid, completing 55.1 percent of his passes for 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Now a sophomore, he figures to be even better in 2017.
“I think the biggest jump for kids is Year 1 to Year 2, and I’m hoping to see some huge development from him,” CBS Sports Network analyst and former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “You go into that first season and you see all these SEC defenses, and you’re kind of in awe: ‘Oh, man, I’m going to South Carolina and I’m playing Auburn. I’m playing these great defenses.’ And I think in Year 2, you just have more of a comfort of almost that feeling of, ‘Been there, done that. Now I know my process. I know the offense better. I know the speed of the game better.’ Hopefully the coaches continue to trust him more with the playbook and his checks and his reads.”
Georgia, ranked 15th in the preseason, also returns running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, who combined for 1,970 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns last season.
“I look for a great year (from Georgia),” Murray said. “They have a lot of talent around (Eason). I think it comes down to the offensive line. If they’re not able to run the ball between the tackles, to then utilize the play-action game, I think it’s going to be very tough for him to have a successful season – or what people deem would be a successful season for him. But the kid is unbelievably talented.”
He’s also big.
“I remember the first time I met him, I was like, ‘Man, you look like a tight end: 6-5, big, broad shoulders. Every NFL coach is going to be drooling over you when you come out,’” Murray recalled. “But if that offensive line can do their thing this year, give him some time, I’m looking for a big jump in Year 2 for him.”
Georgia opens this Saturday against Appalachian State before traveling to South Bend to take on the Irish on Sept. 9. Kickoff for each game is slated for 6:15 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET, respectively.
As of now, the Bulldogs play three ranked teams this season – and none at home. They play No. 25 Tennessee in Knoxville on Sept. 30, have a neutral-site game against No. 17 Florida in Jacksonville on Oct. 28, and play No. 12 Auburn at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Nov. 11.