Washington’s Jacob Eason was arguably the most accomplished scout team quarterback in the country last season.
Not many QBs who spent last season running the plays used by Stanford, Oregon State and other Pac-12 opponents had the kind of credentials Eason brought with him after transferring from Georgia.
Yet despite his experience as a starter for the Bulldogs and all his physical tools, there’s no guarantee Eason will be Washington’s starting QB when the season begins Aug. 31 against Eastern Washington. In fact, as the Huskies opened spring practice Wednesday, coach Chris Petersen was trying to downplay the expectations surrounding Eason and made it clear that the starting QB is not a foregone conclusion.
Petersen would prefer there’s no hype or attention surrounding Eason, who was relegated to being a spectator at Washington last year.
“(Eason) hasn’t played real football in a long, long time. That’s the thing,” Petersen said. “This is a college guy who played one year of college football and I just think it’s a disservice to him for you guys to put all this pressure on him. I’ve seen what is out there and all that kind of stuff. He’s a college guy, has played one year of football, got some really good talent. But our other guys do as well, but it’s not being talked about like it is with him. I think that’s unfair.”
Eason began his career at Georgia as a freshman starter, but he was unseated a year later by another freshman — Jake Fromm — after suffering an injury. Fromm went on to lead Georgia to the national championship game, and Eason decided to return home and transfer to Washington.
The timing worked well. Eason was forced to sit out the 2018 season, but Washington had four-year starter Jake Browning finishing up his career and the expectation was that Eason would take over in 2019.
That may still happen, but Washington has a deep quarterback room. While there are some promising youngsters, the likelihood is that Eason or Jake Haener will earn the starting nod. Eason’s skills are without question but Haener is a junior who has more time in Washington’s system and he appeared in four games last season.
“It’s a different feeling moving forward. I think it’s going to bring out the best in all of us and I’m excited to see what happens,” Haener said.
Eason said the transition over the past year has been mostly seamless, from joining Washington before the start of spring practice a year ago to spending the regular season trying to pick up little tips from Browning in the hopes that he will be using them himself.
“Not being able to play on Saturdays, I used that in my practice time. I got to compete Monday through Thursday against our defense to get them better,” Eason said.
The task of replacing Browning will be tough for whoever wins the job. Browning left Washington as the winningest quarterback in Pac-12 history with a resume filled with school records that will be difficult for anyone to topple. Despite Eason’s credentials from his time at Georgia — where he threw for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016 — the last thing anyone expects is a quick decision from Petersen on a starter.
Browning even joked this week at his pro day about not expecting an announcement until just a few days before the opener. Everyone involved seems fine with that kind of timeline.
“There’s a lot of things I can work on. Mechanical things. Getting better with our system,” Eason said. “That’s what spring and fall camp are for. I’m looking forward to refining and getting better.”