LOS ANGELES ― Kirby Smart was not Nick Saban’s only loss when his longtime assistant accepted the Georgia coaching job. He also lost a major quarterback commitment.
Jake Fromm had been a longtime pledge to the Crimson Tide by the time Smart arrived in Athens in the second week of December 2015. By March, Fromm had flipped from Alabama and committed to Georgia.
Since then, Fromm has become a legendary figure to the Bulldogs faithful, and he’ll start against Alabama when the two teams meet in the College Football Playoff championship game on Monday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
“We thought he was a fantastic player,” Saban said on a teleconference call for the last two teams standing Tuesday afternoon. “Very instinctive, very smart, makes great choices and decisions, always puts his team in the best play they can be in. I think he does a lot ‘check-with-mes,’ which for a freshman quarterback probably demonstrates his knowledge of the game and preparation and intelligence. You know, he’s always been a fantastic passer and remains that way.”
Fromm played big for the No. 3 Bulldogs (13-1) on Monday as they came from behind to defeat No. 2 Oklahoma 54-48 in two overtimes. He completed 20 of 29 passes for 210 yards and 2 touchdowns, and his key 16-yard pass on third-and-long late in the fourth quarter set up the game-tying TD and sent the game into overtime.
Now Fromm will have to go against Alabama and its top-ranked defense. But Saban said he has no hard feelings toward Smart or Fromm that things turned out the way they did.
“We thought he was a great player. We had him in camp and we were excited to have him be part of our program,” Saban said. “But we understood when Kirby went to Georgia that Kirby was recruiting him and there was a chance of that happening.”