Throughout the summer, USA TODAY High School Sports has published a series called “60 for ’16” highlighting 60 members of the Class of 2016 who we will be watching in the coming 12 months. The final 20 athletes will be presented in order from No. 20 to No. 1 over four weeks. The athletes were selected by the USA TODAY HSS staff.
Name: Jacob Eason
School: Lake Stevens, Wash.
Here’s the skinny on Jacob Eason’s nickname.
“The last time my dad cut my hair was when I was in elementary school,” Eason said. His father, Tony Eason, a former receiver at Notre Dame, started by taking a little off the sides, then a little more to make things even, then a little more and pretty soon, there wasn’t much hair left on Jacob’s head.
“My mom got ahold of him and said you shouldn’t cut his hair,” Jacob said.
“I rubbed his head and it was right down to the skin,” Tony said. “I called him skinny.”
“And the nickname stuck,” Jason said.
Eason wears his hair a little longer these days, but the incident explains a lot. He doesn’t mind a temporary setback because a little stress could lead to success.
“My favorite drill is throwing off balance,” Eason said. “We work a lot of throwing across the body. I’ll do a five-step drop and then throw the other way or change my release point.”
The willingness to stretch himself explains why he committed to Georgia, 2,700 miles away from his home, instead of going to a Pac-12 school.
“He wants a challenge and wants to challenge himself,” Lake Stevens quarterback coach Lew Widmann said. “You don’t want to say anything bad about the Pac-12 here but the SEC is football. He is at that level and wants to challenge himself. My surprise is he committed so early. He went down to visit at Georgia and all of a sudden, I get a call telling me he’s going to go to Georgia.”
Private quarterback coach Lavelle Durant has been working with Eason since the summer after his sophomore year.
“One thing I’ve learned about Skinny is if it is becoming too easy for him, he wants to try something more difficult,” Durant said. “He wants to sharpen that edge. He is comfortable about being uncomfortable and we do a lot of second reaction drills we he is surprised.”
Eason has 6,228 career passing yards with 59 touchdowns, including 32 touchdown passes with only three interceptions last season.
“I’m really big on the confidence part of my game,” Eason said. “I broke my arm my freshman year and when I came back my sophomore year, I had six picks because I was kind of nervous. After that, I started getting back to my original self and my original confidence.”
Any casual observer can see Eason has a gun for an arm. He threw 63 yards in a recent camp and Durant said Eason connected with a wind-aided 82-yard completion in Atlanta to Archer (Lawrenceville, Ga.) receiver Kyle Davis.
“He can throw 100 mph, but he also works on the trajectory of his throws,” Durant said. “He realizes everything doesn’t have to be thrown that fast.”
“That’s something that I learned back in Little League days,” Eason said. “I was throwing to my receivers and sometimes I tried to throw it hard to their hands. Then my dad got on me, saying, ‘Know you receivers and what they can and can’t do.’ ”
When he’s waiting to throw, Eason does a steady one-two step, always leaving himself in position to throw.
“That’s actually a technique,” Widmann said. “I don’t like him to hop. It’s kind of a stutter step and its called a typewriter. That’s been something I’ve coached him up since I’ve known him and his other quarterback coach is of the same school.”
Eason keeps his balance in other ways as well. He’s a three-sport athlete, something that’s rare these days for elite quarterbacks. He has a decent left-handed bat in baseball and hit a home run in what is likely his last high school at-bat since he’s planning on attending college early.
“I think the biggest thing I took away from playing three sports is being in competitive shape year-round and developing leadership skills,” he said.