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QB Eason moving closer to return from injury for No. 7 Dogs

(AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

By CHARLES ODUM

AP Sports Writer

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) Jacob Eason could be moving closer to playing again for No. 7 Georgia.

Coach Kirby Smart said Monday to "possibly count on Eason" playing this week at Tennessee. Eason could return if he continues to recover from a sprained left knee he suffered the first week of the season.

"We don't know. I mean, possibility, yeah," Smart said when asked about Eason's possible return this week. "We're going to bring him out there and see where he is, just like we did last week. We think he's closer because last week he improved as the week went on. We expect the same thing."

Smart wouldn't say if a healthy Eason would reclaim the starting job from Jake Fromm. He said that will be decided in practice.

"I'll be honest with you, I want the one who gives us the best opportunity to win to play quarterback," Smart said. "You say who is that, tell me who it is? I can't answer that. It's based on performance during the week."

Eason wore a brace on the left knee as he threw passes in the portion of Monday's practice open to media.

Fromm has quickly taken a firm hold on the position. The freshman is 3-0 as a starter, including two wins over Top 25 teams - at Notre Dame and in last week's surprising 31-3 rout of then-No. 17 Mississippi State .

Georgia (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) is moving up in the polls and there may be no reason to change starting quarterbacks and possibly disrupt momentum on offense.

"They've got about 18 running backs that can run the ball," Tennessee defensive tackle Kendal Vickers said Monday. "They've got really great players in the backfield. They've got a freshman quarterback who's been making a lot of plays."

Fromm completed 9 of 12 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns against Mississippi State. He completed his first eight passes and had two throws dropped by receivers. Fromm has thrown seven touchdown passes with only one interception this season.

Smart offered a possible hint of his plans for Eason by comparing the quarterback with senior cornerback Malkom Parrish, who returned to a backup role last week. Parrish was expected to start before suffering a broken foot before the season.

Smart noted that Parrish "played some on third down" against Mississippi State but "didn't play the whole time."

"You could argue he was a starter, so why didn't he go out there and start?" Smart asked. "He wasn't 100 percent. He was able to do some things, not everything."

Added Smart: "So I view every position the same, where competition creates and breeds success."

Eason participated in pregame warmups last week but was not cleared to play. He was bracketed with senior Brice Ramsey as the backups to Fromm on the depth chart released on Monday.

Smart said he wants Eason "to get healthy and be a part of this game plan and learn what to do" while he wants Fromm "to focus on improving and getting better."

Added Smart: "The point for both of them is to have team vision and have a goal to make the team better."

Eason has not been made available for interviews since his injury. Smart has not made Fromm or other freshmen available for interviews.

Fromm led Georgia to a 20-19 win at then-No. 24 Notre Dame in his first start on Sept. 9. Tailback Sony Michel said that proved the freshman can handle another difficult road test at Tennessee.

"I think Fromm does a great job prepping, doing great in practice," Michel said. "That's where it starts off. Even when we go on away games, he practices with crowd noise, so he's kind of getting that experience in practice. Once he goes through that phase I think he's ready for the game."

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Updated September 25, 2017

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