- Associated Press - Friday, September 9, 2016

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - The home debut of Kirby Smart as No. 9 Georgia’s coach gained new significance when freshman Jacob Eason was announced as the starting quarterback in Saturday’s game against Nicholls.

Eason’s eventual rise to the starting job was widely expected following a preseason competition with 2015 starter Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey. Eason, from Lake Stevens, Washington, was regarded by some services as the nation’s top high school quarterback in this year’s recruiting class.

Eason played behind Lambert in last week’s 33-24 win over North Carolina. Eason completed 8 of 12 passes for 131 yards and one touchdown. Lambert completed 5 of 8 passes for 54 yards.

Georgia confirmed early Friday that Eason will start. Current Detroit Lions starter Matthew Stafford is the last Georgia true freshman to start at quarterback. Stafford’s first start came in the third game of the 2006 season, a 34-0 win over UAB.

Georgia (1-0) will use the day to prepare for eight straight Southeastern Conference games, including next week’s visit to Missouri. It will be the opener for Nicholls, a FCS team.

Smart hasn’t commented on his quarterback decision. He said Monday it is easier for a freshman quarterback to start, thanks to the growth of the passing game in high school.

“They see so much more, they throw so much more, they’ve seen a lot of the defenses before,” Smart said. “There are a lot more prolific offenses out there in high school football. More teams are throwing in high school football. … I certainly think quarterbacks come in with more ability to play early.”

Eason (6-5, 235) looked tall, strong and confident against North Carolina. He displayed his arm strength on a 51-yard completion to Isaiah McKenzie. He also threw a 17-yard scoring pass to McKenzie.

Eason’s rise to the starting job may come as a relief to his teammates after weekly questions about the quarterback competition.

“It doesn’t matter who’s in there, Jacob or Greyson or anybody,” fullback Christian Payne said Monday. “We’re going to play our best for whoever.”

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Some things to know about Nicholls’ visit to Georgia:

‘NECESSARY EVIL’: Nicholls lost to Arkansas 73-7 in 2014 in its last game against a SEC team and has no win against a FBS team since 2013, when it beat Western Michigan. Coach Tim Rebowe said playing a team like Georgia is “a necessary evil.” ”I think all the coaches in the (Southland) conference would agree,” Rebowe said. “We like to do it. It’s great exposure for our program and a lot of our guys want to see if they can compete at the highest level.”

NO LETDOWN: Smart insists the Bulldogs can improve “everywhere.” He then added for emphasis “I’m serious. Anywhere.” The win over then-No. 22 North Carolina triggered a big celebration in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome for Smart, his players and Georgia fans. On Monday the coach insisted that looking back only brought him anguish. “You watch the tape and you’re sick to your stomach because there are so many things we did wrong that we need to improve on,” Smart said.

HELP FOR CHUBB: Tailback Nick Chubb was a workhorse as he had 33 carries for 222 yards and two touchdowns last week in his return from his 2015 season-ending knee injury. He is expected to carry a much lighter load against the Colonels, even if Sony Michel isn’t cleared to return from his broken forearm.

CALLING ALL FRESHMEN: Georgia played 12 freshmen against North Carolina and may expand that list this week. Tailback Elijah Holyfield, held out with an ankle injury last week, could make his debut. Another freshman tailback, Brian Herrien ran for 59 yards with a touchdown on seven carries last week and could play a bigger role.

RUNNING QB: Nicholls senior Tuskani Figaro is a dual threat at quarterback. He is 10th on the program’s all-time rushing list and has seven career games with at least 100 yards rushing. As a sophomore, he set a school record with 1,103 yards rushing. Figaro’s 2015 season ended in his ninth start with a collarbone injury at the end of a 75-yard run against Lamar.

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AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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