ATHENS — Kirk Herbstreit understands some Georgia football fans might be ready for a quarterback change, but ESPN’s top college football analyst maintains that Kirby Smart is doing the right thing standing behind sophomore Jake Fromm.
“Yeah, it’s easy to point the finger at Jake Fromm right now, and (say) what the heck is wrong with him, and let’s give this (Justin) Fields kid a chance,” Herbstreit said. “But I’m not going there yet, because I saw what they did last year, and I think they can potentially do that again.”
Herbstreit visited with DawgNation on Tuesday morning, sharing his thoughts on the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs game against No. 9-ranked Florida at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Jacksonville (TV: CBS; Radio: WSB 95.5 FM, 750 AM).
The Bulldogs are coming off a 36-16 loss at No. 4 LSU, a game that saw Fromm get off to a 2-of-10 passing start as Georgia fell behind 16-0 at the half.
Herbstreit, who played college football at Ohio State, said that after falling behind like that, it was going to be hard for anybody to get going.
“When I think back to that (LSU) game, you remember they were playing a really good defense on the road, and the other thing that stands out was that LSU had the energy and momentum early in the game at home,” Herbstreit said.
“The field just seemed to be tilted one way, and their offense couldn’t get going at all, and they are down 16-0 at the half, and at that point with that LSU defense playing the way they were …. it’s hard to take anything away form that game, as far as what went right, what went wrong,” Herbstreit said. “Clearly Jake Fromm didn’t have a great game, and the offensive line didn’t have a great game.”
It was Herbstreit who warned Georgia earlier this season to be “very cautious” with its quarterback situation.
“Because Jake Fromm has that ‘it’ factor, and this team wants to play for him, and the team responded to his leadership a year ago,” Herbstreit said before the season-opening game.
“I think just saying, ‘Justin Fields is better physically than Jake Fromm, so we got to get him in,’ I get it on one hand, but on the other hand, I think you better be careful on how and when you put him into a football game.”
Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney have picked their spots on using Fields, maintaining a fluid situation that enables them to insert the athletic freshman when they see it benefitting the team most.
A DawgNation study compared Fields’ progress to that of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa last season, revealing Fields has attempted just one pass in an SEC road environment this season.
Herbstreit suggested the Georgia offensive philosophy might need a slight makeover moving forward this season.
“I have no earthly idea what they are going to do,” Herbstreit said, “but I do know they are going to have to find a way to get more aggressive and find a way to become more balanced offensively.
“You can’t put Jake Fromm in third-and-7 and third-and-9 throughout the game; he needs to be in third-and-2 and third-and-3s.”
Fromm is 3-of-20 in converting in third-and-9 or longer with three interceptions and four sacks.
Smart has said down-and-distance will be key to the game, and it’s hard for any quarterback to convert third-and-long.
“Last time I checked nobody wins third and long at a high rate, (and) if they do, they’re special,” Smart said. “The big deal for us is being able to make good decisions, put the quarterback in a good situation. Sometimes the best play on third and long is an 8-yard gain that allows 8 yards for the punter. So those are things that we continue to work on, try to develop at.”
Herbstreit’s exclusive interview with DawgNation was sponsored by Allstate, which has a “Mayhem” program detailing the passion college football fans have for their sport. Among the Mayhem stats, a survey revealed that 46 percent of college fans have kissed or hugged a stranger because their team won a big game.
Georgia football vs. Florida, DawgNation