Jake Fromm, Georgia’s freshman quarterback, is playing with poise well beyond his years.
The Bulldogs’ impressive rushing attack and dominant defensive have them in good shape to challenge for an SEC championship. With Fromm at quarterback, playing at this level, they have a chance to crash the College Football Playoff party and run the table. Next challenge: rival Florida on Saturday afternoon.
The young pup has instantly mastered a slimmed-down version of Jim Chaney’s multi-faceted offense. He put up the gaudiest stat line and most complete performance of his young career against Missouri last week. He now leads all SEC quarterbacks in passer rating, an astonishing feat for a true freshman, particularly one who didn’t even win the starting job coming out of camp.
Fromm’s unnatural poise has stood out, because he’s at an age where quarterbacks are often hampered with itchy feet and a scattered brain. He never panics. Whether it’s a third down, staring down a snarling pass-rush, or heading into a hostile environment, Fromm has come through.
Here’s a breakdown on what has made Fromm so good this season:
Excelling on third downs
Fromm has been flabbergastingly good on money downs. That’s where the great players separate themselves. Defenses dial up blitzes. They bluff in and out of every kind of coverage. Corners press. Safeties rotate. Pass-rushers pin their ears back. It’s tough.
Well, rather, it should be.
Fromm’s stat line on third downs reads like something from a 7-on-7 high school game. He’s 29-for-46 passing, with 509 yards, 8 touchdowns and an interception. Crunch that together and you get a passer rating of 209. Wow.
Chaney has done an excellent job of adapting and evolving, especially given the struggles during his first season working with Jacob Eason — also a true freshman at the time — in 2016. Chaney overloaded Eason. The quarterback struggled with his timing and rhythm, and he was a beat too slow on everything.
Not Fromm. Fromm is playing quicker than Eason ever did. He’s been decisive and gotten rid of the ball in a hurry. That’s paramount in a system that’s been predicated mostly around half-field reads. Chaney has built-in more three-tiered and triangle concepts to help the young QB get up to speed. They’ve gelled fast, and blitzed everyone.
Chaney’s triangle concepts — three routes working together to form a triangle — have helped spring receivers open through play design, gifting Fromm some simple throws.
And Fromm has done an excellent job at diagnosing coverages and making quick decisions on three-tiered route combinations. Georgia runs an ungodly amount of flood concepts — three receivers attacking one side of the field at different levels, one deep, one intermediate, one short.
While that combination of concepts can restrict an offense some — particularly if it’s an isolation-based system — it gives the quarterback less to read. Less is always more for young QBs.
Rather than having to scan the entire field and reset his feet, Fromm is able to read a pre-snap key, confirm it post-snap, then fling the ball to one of two options, based on whether the defense is in zone or man-coverage.
Receivers on the backside of plays are mostly ignored. Sure, those options are built in case they’re necessary, but those receivers are used to help spread the field — focusing on splitting the safeties further apart — and reveal coverages.
Fromm has been light years ahead of traditional freshman in understanding defensive leverage and recognizing coverages, meaning he can crank out throws in rhythm.
Watch below how Fromm’s eyes only scan one side of the field. Because of that, he’s oblivious to the coverage bust at the top of the screen. Yet he’s able to recognize the soft spot in the zone coverage and deliver a dime on time
Defensive coordinators, like they do with all young QBs on third downs, have tried to fool Fromm by running zone blitzes — dropping an on-ball defender into coverage and blitzing someone else from an unusual angle. Fromm has eaten it up.
He’s also been winning with his feet, not just as a runner, but slipping and sliding in the pocket to avoid pressure. He plays with light feet for a big guy, allowing him to tip-toe his way around oncoming rushers while keeping his eyes downfield. This is an NFL throw: A stick, slide, climb, throw (say it with me!) from the far hash. He hit the receiver running a corner route, in stride, outside the numbers.
It’s subtle, but the final movement to regain his base — the climb — is an important part of his development.
Last year, Eason became prone to “fall away” throws. He’d force throws from unnatural body positions, with his weight leaning toward the sideline, after sliding to avoid an oncoming rusher or a muddied throwing lane. He relied on his arm too much. Fromm is winning with his feet.
It’s not like Fromm and the Bulldogs have been living in third-and-short all season, either. Their rushing attack has been explosive, but hasn’t cranked out the down-to-down efficiency you would expect from a team built around a power run game.
Fromm hasn’t been afraid to let it rip on third-and-long. With limited decisions, plays often boil down to accuracy. Big windows, small windows, it hasn’t mattered.
He’s shown trust in his receivers and a willingness to play within the construct of the offense. When you combine that with the timing of his passes, flicked a beat earlier than defenses are used to, you get superstar-level production. Some call that game management.
Get excited for the matchup Saturday with Florida’s spicy, “we’re coming for you” third-down dime package. Fromm is ready for it.
Making throws under fire
Poise, guts, skill. Fromm has the lot. It’s easy to forget he’s less than 12 months removed from playing high school ball.
He’s happy to stand in and make a throw with a pass-rusher beating down, even if it means he has to wear a hit. He’s mobile enough to take off and scoot away, and he’s used that as a viable weapon in short-yardage situations. But he won’t bail out of the pocket just to avoid a hit. Instead, he’ll step into a throw, and a deliver a gut punch right back.
He was a perfect 4-for-4 against the blitz vs. Missouri, per ProFootballFocus. He was just as good against a stout Notre Dame defense, though he was hamstrung by some horrific drops.
Veteran defensive coordinators love nothing more than sending a few early blitzes to rattle the cage of a young quarterback. They’ll follow that up with stunts — spinning pressure directly in the QBs face — and straight four-man rushes, hoping the quarterback starts seeing ghosts and fleeing the pocket.
Not Fromm. He’s a grown man, ready for this.
Saturday will pair him with a Florida defense that has no time for such frivolous things as stunting, blitzing or stemming. It’s going to bring a steady rotation of eight uber-talented creatures, four at a time, and attempt to light up the backfield.
Florida’s defensive line is fourth in the nation in havoc rate. The defense as a whole is 16th in passing-down sack rate.
Florida defensive coordinator Randy Shannon’s crew doesn’t do an awful lot well. But when it pins its ears back, it hits quarterbacks.
That will be particularly important early on Saturday. Chaney likes to take deep play-action shots during his 15-20 scripted plays. The one-two running back punch of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel has defensive fronts keying in on the run. As long as the offensive line sells the action, play-action shots are there.
Against Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Missouri, Chaney called — and Fromm hit — deep shots early and often. Fromm has an innate feel for turning his back, resetting his feet, scanning the field, and getting the ball out before the defense comes calling when throwing off play-action — an art lost in this pace-and-space, spread-option era.
There are guys at the pro level who still struggle with that.
It’s not just what Fromm’s doing, it’s how he’s doing it, and who he’s doing it against. His first college start was on the road against a Notre Dame defense now ranked 18th in S&P+, per SB Nation. The Bulldogs put up 20 points and came away with the win. Since then, he’s led an offense that has averaged 42.5 points a game against SEC foes.
Over the next three weeks he’ll face a mix of fast (Florida), creative (South Carolina), and fast and creative (Auburn) defenses. Pass those tests and he’ll shed any notion that he’s propped up by the team’s run game and a basic scheme, though it helps.
Shine, and he’ll stake take his claim not just as the top freshman, but as the top quarterback in the conference.