SEC rivals Florida and Georgia seem to be headed in different directions in the aftermath of their most recent clash.
The Gators improved to 7-1 with a 27-3 victory over the Bulldogs last Saturday, one win shy of the program's highest win total since 2012. Georgia fell for the third time in four games, leading to a Fox Sports report from Bruce Feldman that states support is waning for head coach Mark Richt among Bulldogs boosters.
"Some of Georgia’s big-dog boosters are asking questions and talking about potentially moving on from Richt unlike ever before in his tenure," Feldman wrote Tuesday.
Whenever we discuss a college coaching staff's uncertainty, the conversation must include recruiting implications. While the situation in Athens isn't on par with what we saw at Miami earlier this season or even in Gainesville last fall, speculation will undoubtedly escalate if the Bulldogs are unable to rebound, beginning this Saturday against Kentucky.
Georgia has a lot to lose should things trend in the wrong direction, starting with an outstanding 2016 recruiting class. The group rates sixth nationally in composite rankings, spearheaded by 5-star quarterback Jacob Eason.
The 6'5", 205-pound prospect pledged to the Bulldogs before the start of his junior season at Lake Stevens High School in Washington. He's maintained that cross-country commitment for 16 months, serving as a catalyst in a class that features fellow offensive standouts Elijah Holyfield, Ben Cleveland and Charlie Woerner.
Eason is the linchpin of Georgia's 2016 recruiting efforts, at least offensively, and he's on track to enroll early for spring camp. The Bulldogs are nearing the finish line of a lengthy pursuit but may need to evade a familiar foe before bringing Eason to campus.
Florida, averaging nearly 60 more passing yards per contest than last season, hopes to find a top-tier quarterback during the final stretch of this cycle. According to Luke Stampini of 247Sports, that search extends to the Northwest.
Stampini notes Gators offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier contacted Eason via social media, as the two recently connected on Twitter. Eason followed the veteran play-caller days after Georgia's defeat at Florida.
"You know, he reached out to me, so I followed him, so he could he could communicate. So, that’s about all I want to say about that," Eason told Stampini.
It continues a significant recruiting push for Florida's staff. Head coach Jim McElwain, Nussmeier and company have continued to recruit Elite 11 finalists Feleipe Franks and Dwayne Haskins, despite their existing commitments to LSU and Maryland, respectively.
The Gators failed to sign a passer in the 2015 class, though McElwain can now provide prospects with tangible evidence that he's made offensive improvements.
McElwain carries a commitment from 3-star Texas quarterback Kyle Trask, though a surprising July offer from Florida was his first from an FBS program. Trask, who rates 91st nationally among pro-style quarterbacks in composite rankings, currently backs up TCU commit D'Eriq King at Manvel High School.
Sooner or later, it seems the Gators will gain a second pledge at the position.
A fluid situation at quarterback became even more intriguing when redshirt freshman Will Grier was suspended for the season following a hot start. Sophomore Treon Harris regained the job, tossing three touchdowns and no interceptions in two games.
Signs point toward Eason remaining in Georgia's class, as Stampini acknowledges in his report, but that outcome may ultimately hinge on the future of Richt. If the longtime Bulldogs leader is ousted at season's end, it could mean sweeping changes for this program and its recruiting class.
Florida, diligently surveying the 2016 landscape for elite quarterbacks, likely needs to flip someone's commitment in order to reach signing day with a dynamic passer in place. Flirtations between Eason and the Gators could intensify in coming months, though the more likely scenario sees him someday leading Georgia against Florida as an opponent.
Expectations will be immense for Eason regardless of his collegiate landing spot. He's thrown for 8,136 yards and 84 touchdowns since 2013, according to MaxPreps.