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Washington and Washington State at the NFL combine: Jacob Eason says ‘I felt ready’ to leave school and enter the draft

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 25, 2020

University of Washington quarterback Jacob Eason speaks during a news conference at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (Michael Conroy / AP)
University of Washington quarterback Jacob Eason speaks during a news conference at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. (Michael Conroy / AP)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

INDIANAPOLIS – Should quarterback Jacob Eason have stayed at Washington for another season? That remains a debate as the NFL combine kicks off this week.

According to a story published Monday on NFL.com – the league’s official website – at least two unnamed general managers said Eason should have remained with the Huskies for one more season.

“He’s a big guy who’s athletic with good arm strength, and he can make all the throws,” an unnamed AFC GM said.

“It would’ve helped him to stay in school another year – there’d be less uncertainty – but I could see teams liking his traits and projecting him as someone they could develop into a starter.”

But to Eason, leaving UW was a no-brainer, if for no other reason than he just felt like it was time. He’ll turn 23 in November and had already spent four years in college between his two years at Georgia and two more with the Huskies.

“A lot of it was just me feeling ready and ready to take on that next challenge, that next opportunity,” Eason said Tuesday during his official session with the media at the NFL combine. “… I felt like I maximized what I was going to be able to do in terms of school and college and everything around that area. The NFL has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember and I felt ready and I wanted to go take on that challenge.”

UW’s coaching change from Chris Petersen to Jimmy Lake could’ve factored in and also would’ve meant playing for another offensive coordinator.

Eason, though, put a positive spin on working in vastly different offenses during his runup to the NFL, from Lake Stevens High to Georgia and UW.

“I think early on in my career going down from a high school that was a West Coast, no-huddle spread offense to a pro-style offense at Georgia as an 18-year old, learning on the fly there, and then ultimately coming to Washington, which was pro style with a little bit of spread mixed in there – two different offenses, two different coordinators, two different head coaches – as I matured and grew older in this profession, it all kind of came together and I was able to learn a lot more a lot faster.”

Here’s more of what we heard from UW and WSU players at the combine Tuesday:

Eason said year off helped him appreciate football more

The lengthy NFL.com story also attempted to dispel rumblings that NFL teams have questions about Eason’s commitment to the sport, stating “numerous NFL coaches and talent evaluators say they don’t view Eason’s past partying exploits as a serious concern.”

Eason didn’t specifically use the word “partying” on Tuesday but acknowledged the two years he didn’t play – his final year at Georgia, when he lost the job after being injured, then the redshirt year at UW – taught him to appreciate the game more.

“Throughout high school and all the way up to my freshman year (at Georgia), I was the guy, I was the starter,” Eason said. “So initially, that sophomore year was new for me. I had to learn how to operate in that role, and ultimately in that experience I gained a new appreciation for the game having it taken away on Saturday.

“I learned how to become a better practice player, loved to go in and lift and run and work out and all those things. The camaraderie in the locker room and a bunch of different areas of the game that you lose sight of when it’s all about Saturdays but when you get it taken away, you get a new perspective.”

Bryant puts on weight, has chance meeting with Schneider

UW tight end and Eastside Catholic graduate Hunter Bryant weighed in at 248 pounds Monday, about 10 pounds more than his playing weight last season with the Huskies, after which he declared for the draft with a year of eligibility remaining.

Many players talk about weight gain as an advantage they sought heading into the combine, but Bryant said his just happened.

“I wasn’t trying to,” he said. “It was just the way I was eating and working out, I just gained weight. I still feel like I’m the same athlete I was before, probably better, to be honest. Just heavier.”

As part of the first wave of players at the combine, Bryant has already held many of his individual meetings with teams.

Bryant said he didn’t have an official meeting with the Seahawks but has had a few unofficial ones, including on his flight to Indianapolis.

Bryant said Seahawks general manager John Schneider was on his same plane and the two chatted after Schneider immediately recognized him.

“That was pretty funny,” Bryant said. “We talked for a little bit, so it was cool.”

WSU QB Gordon thinks Minshew’s success has opened the door wider

WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon didn’t draw the same sort of crowd to his media session as did Eason or some of the other big-name QBs here, such as LSU’s Joe Burrow.

But Gordon said he thinks there may be fewer questions about his ability to make the transition from WSU’s Air Raid offense to the NFL thanks to fellow Cougars alumnus Gardner Minshew’s success with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Gordon said concerns over whether QBs can make that transition are overblown and the system may actually better prepare a QB for the NFL because they throw so much in practice.

He said he understands there is a perception whether so-called “system QBs” can handle various NFL duties, including taking snaps from center, adding Minshew’s season should help.

“Yeah, I think Gardner did a great job through this past year breaking through and doing more to really break down that Air Raid stereotype,” Gordon said. “So I’m very thankful for that.”

Gordon said he and Minshew talk often and that Minshew recently gave him some words of advice about the combine.

“He reached out to me before this combine and told me to be myself and control any room that I enter and I’ll do great,” Gordon said.

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