ATHENS — ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit gets it, Georgia football has a very talented true freshman quarterback in Justin Fields.
But, Herbstreit told DawgNation Tuesday morning, Kirby Smart must handle this situation with great care.
“I would be very cautious with how I handled that situation,” Herbstreit said, “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.
“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.”
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs open the season at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday against FCS Austin Peay at Sanford Stadium, and Fromm is expected to get the start.
Smart, perhaps in the spirit of what Herbstreit is preaching, declined to name Fromm the starter on Monday when asked directly about the quarterback situation.
“Both of those kids have visited frequently with us, as coaches, and we’ve let both of them know where they are,” Smart said. “Jake’s been going with the ones the whole time.”
Fromm, in his own way, broke the news he’s starting when asked about running backs on Monday.
“I’m just excited to see who’s standing next to me when we go out for that first drive,” Fromm said.
Smart said there is not a specific plan in place to play both quarterbacks. The third-year head coach indicated it will be a fluid situation to the extent it will depend on situations.
“I think the game will dictate how we get to play those guys I don’t know how that is going to come out,” Smart said. “But there’s no like plan, this is what’s going to happen, this is when he’s going to play …. We’re going to kind of see how the game goes.”
Herbstreit, who played quarterback at Ohio State from 1989-1993, said he understands the interest fans and even coaches have in Fields.
“I get it, look at our latest new shiny object, here’s Justin Fields, and Justin Fields might be the biggest star we’ve seen ever, he might be,” Herbstreit said. “But I would be very cautious how I handled the situation.”
The current college football landscape is such that quarterbacks are transferring now more than ever, a byproduct of more lenient transfer rules.
That’s led to coaches working harder to try to keep quarterbacks happy to ensure they can maintain competitive depth.
Georgia is down to two scholarship quarterbacks after Jacob Eason transferred to Washington in February.
Nebraska is down to one scholarship QB after redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia announced he was transferring on the heels of true freshman Adrian Martinez being named starting quarterback.
So Herbstreit said he understands coaches bending over backwards to keep quarterbacks happy, but only to an extent.
“You have to be careful while you’re doing that not to alienate the team and affect trying to win football games,” Herbstreit said. “So at some point, you have to go with who you’re going to go with, and that’s who we are, and this is our identity, and if it offends you, I’m sorry, but I’m the coach, and this is who we’re going to go with.”
Herbstreit has served as an analyst for ESPN’s College GameDay since 1996, and he’s continuing his work as AllState’s spokesman with the new “Mayhem” program this season. Herbstreit will be picking a mayhem moment each Saturday.
Game Week: Georgia vs. Austin Peay