Sixteen days after hurting his knee, Jacob Eason returned to practice. Reporters actually witnessed this much. It's unclear to what extent Eason participated, there being only so much of practice that Georgia allows reporters to see. Afterward Kirby Smart was asked what his plans are regarding Eason. This was his response to the assembled media:
“I think a lot of that is determined by how (Jake) Fromm is playing. We’ll make that decision when the time comes. It’s not like we’re going to sit here and make an ultimatum. It’s going to come as his health improves.”
Would Eason reclaim his starting job as soon as he's healthy?
Smart: "It's a decision we'll make as his health improves."
Some of this, I submit, was Smart being, er, Smart. Like pretty much every football coach everywhere, he cringes at the notion of clarifying anything for any opponent. The contemporary coach's credo: What they don't know can help us.
But Smart actually said more than that, for which he might be chastising himself. He left the clear impression that some of what happens with Eason will be a function what's happening with Fromm, who's 2-0 as a starter. Maybe that was an intentional dollop of disinformation, but I doubt it. Fromm will surely start Saturday against Mississippi State and probably against Tennessee: The last thing Smart would want is make him feel like a temp as SEC competition commences.
The belief here remains that Fromm is not just a temp. If Georgia hasn't lost when Eason is ready to return, it will be hard to change what's working. (Not impossible, but definitely hard.) The belief is that the Bulldogs hew more to their strengths -- meaning running the ball with Nick Chubb & Sony Michel et alia -- with Fromm at quarterback.
It's not that Fromm can't complete a forward pass -- he has five touchdown passes against one interception -- but that Georgia with Fromm is a bit more committed to basics. Part of that is him being a freshman. Part of it is him not being possessed of an arm on the order of Eason's. Part of it is common sense: You have Chubb & Michel, for Pete's sake!
We must be careful, for this is a small sample size. Still, here goes: Through three games, Fromm's completion percentage is 59.8; his passer rating is 151.3, and his yards-per-attempt average is 7.88. Last season, Eason's completion percentage was 55.1; his passer rating was 120.3, and his YPA was 6.57.
Bigger talent? Eason. Better pro prospect? Eason. Better college quarterback? As yet unsure. That's why this is so fascinating, and not just for the next month. If Smart does make the decision to keep Fromm as a starter, he runs the risk that Eason will transfer. (Hey, it's what college quarterbacks do. Even Greyson Lambert did it.)
Oh, and there's this: Georgia hasn't specified a timetable for Eason's return beyond "day-to-day," which could mean anything and probably means nothing. Knee sprains tend to come with a recovery time of four-to-six weeks. Eason's at 2 1/2. Even the more optimistic side of that window would leave him for Tennessee; the more pessimistic would see him ready for Florida, Georgia having a bye on Oct. 21.
That has been the general consensus among close Georgia-watchers: He won't be back until the Florida game. I wouldn't count on seeing him before then. I wouldn't bet money on seeing him even then. I think Georgia's onto something with Fromm.