ATHENS — Georgia football has endured a turbulent month with players and coaches coming and going.
But the most pivotal transaction has yet to take place.
The Bulldogs’ championship hopes for the 2020 season, and the immediate direction of the program, hinge on quarterback Jake Fromm’s pending decision on whether or not to return for his senior season.
Fromm is 36-7 under center for Georgia with an SEC championship, three SEC East Division crowns and Sugar Bowl and Rose Bowl victories on his collegiate resume.
But Fromm’s 2020 NFL Draft stock might not be high enough for him to give up his role leading his home-state Bulldogs and the legacy he is creating.
Former national championship QB and ESPN analyst Todd Blackledge explained how it could go either way.
Blackledge, who Georgia fans know led Penn State to a 27-23 national championship victory over Herschel Walker and the Bulldogs in the 1983 Sugar Bowl, took time with DawgNation to elaborate on Fromm’s current status.
“For me, one of the biggest things was, did I think I was going to be a first-round draft pick, and I think that’s got to factor in for Jake right now,” said Blackledge, who was the second quarterback taken in the 1983 NFL draft, behind John Elway.
“I don’t know if that’s the deciding factor, but I think that’s got to be a big factor,” he said. “If he’s pretty confident that he’s going to be a first-round pick, or has that kind of grade, then he might really strongly consider it.”
Fromm said during a Sugar Bowl press conference that he had his draft grade but he was choosing not to reveal it. Fromm said he would discuss his decision with his family after the Sugar Bowl.
ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Fromm No. 5 among the draft eligible quarterbacks.
Blackledge said Fromm might choose to return to Georgia if he feels there’s more to be accomplished with the Bulldogs.
Indeed, Fromm had Georgia one play from winning the 2017 College Football Playoffs, before a second-and-26 breakdown in the secondary.
The Bulldogs missed the CFP in 2018 in controversial fashion, and they finished No. 5 in the country at the end of the regular season in 2019 despite an inexperienced and depleted receiving corps.
“He’s had a brilliant career here at Georgia,” Blackledge said. “But if he feels like he’s got some unfinished business, or he feels he can improve his draft stock or draft grade, then it might make sense for him to want to come back.
“I think it’s a no-lose situation for him. I think he would be fine either way. I think he’s going to be a good pro quarterback, and if he came back for another year, he’d be another great college quarterback for Georgia.”
Blackledge has been calling games for 28 seasons, so the former national championship quarterback and first-round NFL draft pick has seen plenty of players come and go.
Blackledge, the son of an NFL assistant coach, likes what Fromm is made of, even if his physical attributes have room to improve.
“I like his poise, I like his competitive fire, I like his leadership,” Blackledge said. “He doesn’t have the dynamic arm, so to speak, but he makes all the throws that you need a guy to make. I think he’s improved on his downfield passing from the time he first started as a freshman, so I think he’s worked on that part of his game.
“But his consistency, his durability, his character, his leadership, even down the stretch when he struggled these last five games from a numbers standpoint.”
It was well documented Fromm had a string of five games where he completed less than 50 percent of his passes before his 20-of-30, 250-yard passing performance in the 26-14 Sugar Bowl win over Baylor last Wednesday.
Former UGA quarterback legend Eric Zeier explained the receiving corps issue and types of passes Fromm was forced to throw by defenses led to a lower completion rate.
Blackledge also took note of the issues Fromm had to deal with.
“You look around him and the depletion of the weapons around him,” Blackledge said, “and yet he just handled his business without making a scene, without making an excuse.
“I just think that says as much about his character as anything.”
Georgia coach Kirby Smart indicated after the Sugar Bowl that he didn’t expect a quick decision from Fromm.
But the Bulldogs’ offensive plans, schemes and recruiting will be greatly affected by Fromm’s decision.
UGA would likely add a graduate transfer quarterback if Fromm has played his last game in a Georgia uniform.
Underclassmen and projected first-round picks Andrew Thomas and D’Andre Swift have declared for the draft, along with offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson.
Junior Richard LeCounte, however, has announced he’s returning to key what could be the nation’s top defense.
The NFL draft evaluation process includes the East-West Shrine Game (select players, Jan. 18, St. Petersburg, Fla.) and the Senior Bowl (select players, Jan. 25, Mobile, Ala.).
The NFL combine takes place Feb. 24-March 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The University of Georgia will also hold a “Pro Day” combine in March, typically the week leading up to the start of spring drills.
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