SEATTLE — Jacob Eason is fully aware of how he comes across. It’s the exact way his high school quarterbacks coach described him earlier this summer: Laid-back and even-tempered, competitive but not excitable.
It’s not a description he necessarily disagrees with. His personality can be traced back to his father’s advice: Never show too much emotion — good or bad — on the field. Eason took those words to heart when he was young, and he’s been following them ever since.
“I tend to put off that vibe,” Eason said after Washington’s fall practice this past Sunday. “That’s just the kind of person I’ve been.”
When Eason was leaving Lake Stevens High School to head to Georgia, that same quarterbacks coach, Lew Widmann, didn’t see many areas where Eason needed to improve. The former five-star recruit was strong and athletic, Widmann said, and he could throw the ball as well as any quarterback in the country. But while he was a fierce competitor with a commanding presence, vocal leadership wasn’t his strength.
“He’s a quarterback, but by nature, he’s kind of quiet,” Widmann said. “He’s not a ‘rah, rah’ guy. You’re not going to see him standing there jumping up and down and high-fiving and all that stuff. It’s not that he’s not excited. It’s just in his nature to be kind of quiet. So that was kind of the thing that I always felt he needed to work on was to be a guy that would get on his teammates when they needed it, like a coach.”
But UW offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Bush Hamdan is content to let Eason lead in his own way.
“I always think on that side of things, they got to be who they are,” Hamdan said. “I think he’s certainly a mild-mannered guy, but he’s picked other ways to lead. At the QB position, if you show you know what you’re doing and you’re executing at a high level then guys trust you, they connect with you. That can mean a lot.”
As the Huskies have moved through offseason workouts to spring practice to fall camp, Hamdan has seen that connection develop between Eason and the offense.
“He stays even-keeled,” Hamdan said. “So sometimes when you might want him to be more of a ‘rah-rah’ type of player, the nice thing is ‘never too high, never too low’ is kind of his mantra and he showed that.”
Still, when Widmann watched one of UW’s spring practices earlier this year, he noticed Eason making an effort to be more vocal. It’s an area Eason said he started focusing on during high school. The process continued throughout his time at Georgia and now with UW.
“Obviously at the college level, you’ve got to really step into that role,” Eason said. “I’m still learning on the fly there and trying to get better about that, too.”
True to form, Eason has remained calm and collected throughout the Huskies’ quarterback competition, at least during his few meetings with reporters. He doesn’t have much to say about how he’s changed since his time at Georgia — “I’ll always be the same quarterback” — or what specific areas of his game he’s been working to polish.
“It’s working on finding a few things every day to improve on,” Eason said. “If you focus on everything everyday you’re going to get overwhelmed. So it’s just focusing on a few little parts of the game that you can improve on and focus on every day. It’s the small things.”
That’s about as specific as any of UW’s players or coaches have been willing to get about the ongoing quarterback battle. The Huskies’ practices have been closed to the media for a week. On Sunday, head coach Chris Petersen addressed reporters for the first time since Aug. 5.
But if you were hoping Petersen would provide any insight into the starting quarterback battle between Eason and Jake Haener, you’re going to have to keep waiting. Asked for an update, Petersen kept his thoughts simple and vague.
“I think it’s been going great,” Petersen said. “I wish I could feel that intensity at every position. I think it’s awesome. I think we all love competition in life. I wish everybody had that in their job every day, they have to come in and compete like that. You watch the guys improving in a hurry. I think it’s been awesome.”