Eason has sharp debut, 93,000 pack Georgia's spring game
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) New coach Kirby Smart never doubted Georgia's fans would fill Sanford Stadium for his first spring scrimmage.
A crowd of 93,000-plus showed up to cheer the Bulldogs and get an early glimpse of freshman quarterback Jacob Eason.
Hundreds of fans were turned away at the gate for the free scrimmage, and the public address announcer twice asked people to move closer so others could take a seat.
''There were a lot of doubters out there saying it couldn't be done,'' Smart said. ''They said they won't come, they'll find something else to do or they'll stay in Atlanta. But they came and they came in groves, and I appreciate that more than they know and our kids appreciate that.''
Smart refused to put much significance on Eason's performance, this despite his completing 19 of 29 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown.
''I'm glad everyone got to come out and see Jacob Eason,'' Smart said. ''I think the welcoming, the clapping, I think that's all great. But the guy that starts the game against North Carolina will be the guy that gives us the best chance to win the game.
''If that's Jacob Eason, that's Jacob Eason, but it may not be, and our fan base will come out and support whoever our quarterback is.''
With the season opener over four months away, Smart isn't close to naming a starting QB. Senior Greyson Lambert and junior Brice Ramsey have just as good a chance to win the job as Eason, who's worked mostly with the second- and third-team offense this spring.
But no player received a louder cheer than Eason when he ran onto the field to take his first snap early in the second quarter. He didn't disappoint.
Eason completed his first two passes and then connected for 35 yards down the left sideline with a perfect shoulder throw to freshman receiver Riley Ridley against tight coverage from cornerback Shattle Fenteng.
Early in the fourth, Eason went down the right sideline to drop the ball into Reggie Davis outstretched arms for a 37-yard catch near the goal line.
''I didn't hide anything from y'all when I said the guy has an elite arm,'' Smart said. ''He's got great arm strength, he's got great arm talent, he makes good decisions most of the time and he's got to communicate better.''
Georgia gave Smart a rock star's welcome on the video board - ''it's a new era'' - as the team warmed up. The former Alabama defensive coordinator, an All-SEC defensive back at Georgia in 1998, looked confidently into the camera and said how glad he is ''to be home.''
That stirred up the fans, and so did Atlanta rapper Ludacris, who played a 15-minute show before kickoff. Smart intended to keep the crowd also stayed interested with both teams combining for 83 passes.
''We wanted to throw the ball,'' Smart said. ''We wanted to entertain. We wanted some excitement.''
Lambert and Ramsey took snaps with the White team, which won 34-14, and the Red team. Eason played only for the Red team.
Running back Sony Michel said Eason's performance was no surprise.
''He works hard for it, and we're going to continue to stay on him to work hard for it,'' Michel said. ''If he keeps working, big things will come.''
Last year's spring game, Georgia's last under former coach Mark Richt, drew over 46,000, then the most in program history.