- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) - Jacob Eason says having a year’s experience makes for “a whole new world” leading Georgia’s offense.

In spring practice a year ago, Eason was only weeks removed from high school in Lake Stevens, Washington. The quarterback’s inexperience showed as he started the final 12 games of a disappointing 8-5 season.

“It was a big change definitely coming from high school,” Eason said after Thursday’s spring practice. “Ultimately that was a great experience for me. I learned a lot from that and I’m glad I did because this year I’m going to be ready to go.”

Eason (6-foot-5, 242 pounds) has the build and, thanks in part to a new beard, the look of a more experienced player.

“I feel like I know where I’m going with the ball, that I can make some checks and that kind of stuff,” he said. “I feel a lot better than last year.”

Coach Kirby Smart said he has seen Eason’s growth on the field.

“He’s got a long way to go but he’s come a long way because he understands the protection now,” Smart said, adding that in 2016 “there were times he did and times he didn’t.”

At times last season Smart offered candid criticism of Eason’s communication and decisions on the field.

“There’s a lot that was on his plate,” Smart said Tuesday. “To manage that offense is challenging coming in straight from high school. I think he’s in a better place. He’s more confident throwing the ball.”

Tight end Isaac Nauta, a part-time starter as a freshman last year, said the offense is running more smoothly this spring “because everybody knows what’s going on and where to be and what to do.”

Eason was the Bulldogs’ most celebrated quarterback signee since Matthew Stafford.

Smart has worked to make sure Eason takes nothing for granted. Smart said he expects freshman Jake Fromm to push Eason . Fromm enrolled early for spring practice, just as Eason did last year.

Eason suddenly is the only experienced quarterback on the roster. Brice Ramsey’s transfer left only Eason, Fromm and Sam Vaughn at quarterback.

There were some low points as Eason threw for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He completed only 5 of 17 passes for 29 yards in a win over South Carolina.

One sign of Eason’s growth: Smart said this week the quarterback is “certainly more comfortable” changing plays at the line than at the end of his freshman season.

“There are things that Jacob can handle now, and being able to do more things,” Smart said. “Being able to open things up and run the ball as well as throw the ball. It will give him some options to check into and out of things.”

The numbers show Georgia’s offense needs better production at quarterback.

The Bulldogs’ 24 points per game ranked only 11th in the Southeastern Conference even as running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel combined for 2,051 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns. Chubb and Michel returned for their 2017 senior seasons.

NOTES: Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green, the former Georgia star, attended Thursday’s practice. … Smart said he is concerned about the poor effort from his defensive front this spring. He conceded it could be a sign of improved play by the Bulldogs’ offensive line. Smart said he’ll learn more in Saturday’s scrimmage.


More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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