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The Ballad of Jake and Jacob
There are tons of talking points to get to from the 31-10 win over Appalachian State on Saturday — not to mention things to talk about in the buildup to Notre Dame this weekend — but for now, there is one story line that will be at the forefront of Georgia fans’ minds: Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm.
When Eason went down early in the first quarter, we all knew that all the talk around Georgia football this week, and probably well beyond, would center on these two quarterbacks. There’s still no concrete update on the status of Eason, but it seems like a safe bet he will not be playing this weekend in South Bend, Ind.
Of course, there have been a ton of takes already on Georgia’s brewing QB controversy, if that’s what you want to call it. Most fans I heard from in Sanford Stadium during the game and pouring out of it afterward seemed to be all aboard the Fromm train. Many of them were already ready to write Eason off as a footnote in the story of Fromm’s career. But most takes from members of the media have been more restrained and have taken a more caustic approach to Georgia’s situation behind center.
Just as it was worth keeping in mind that Fromm’s proficient performance in last spring’s G-Day game was against the second-string defense, fans also should keep in mind that the App State defense, while good by mid-major standards, is not of Power 5-conference quality.
And, because of that, Fromm got away with staring down his intended receivers (a common problem with freshman QBs) and with lofting quite a few dying duck passes that likely would have been interceptions against Notre Dame or an SEC opponent.
Fromm was slugging home runs as a 12-year-old to help lead Warner Robins to the Little League World Series. Then, he was zipping the ball around all over the yard at Houston County High School until he finished with 116 touchdowns and 12,817 yards passing, 260 yards short of Deshaun Watson’s Georgia high-school record.
Fromm was clearly committed to UGA as his college destination early on. So, having to run into the scoreless game with little to no warm-up, then leading his team’s offense to the tune of 300 yards and 31 unanswered points seemed almost like old hat to the big kid with the Hollywood good looks.
Just look at how Fromm played against the Mountaineers. Yes, he had an encouraging performance, but he wasn’t the world-beater many fans tried to make him out to be both during and after the game. His stats were respectable, but he still had plenty of issues, notably forcing too many passes and staring down receivers. His highlight of the game, a 34-yard TD pass to Javon Wims in the second quarter, was thrown up for grabs and would likely have been picked by 80 percent of the defenses Georgia will face this season. On a third-and-goal in the second quarter, he had an opportunity for his second TD pass, but started directly at this receiver, never even hinting he was looking elsewhere. Georgia settled for a field goal.
His performance against Appalachian State was also pretty equivalent to Eason’s first game with a “G” on his helmet. Against UNC in last year’s season opener, Eason was 8 of 12 for 131 yards and 1 TD. Like Fromm’s game on Saturday, that was nothing special, but it was serviceable, and it gave fans some hope to latch onto. But acting like Fromm is head-and-shoulders above where Eason was at this early point in his career is disingenuous.
8. So, now we wait for the medical results on Jacob Eason. Yeah, it was a shaky 10-play start for him, and Fromm definitely injected some adrenaline in what was a disturbingly lethargic unit, but Eason is still the man until someone says he isn’t. As good as Jake was, he’s still a freshman and going to war in this conference for the second consecutive season with a newbie at QB is probably why I’m feeling a bit queasy this morning, beer and chips aside. Eason has got to come out a bit less amped-up, though …
9. … but Fromm seemed more ready to play when suddenly thrust into the limelight. Jeez, the last thing we need is a QB controversy.
And then there were the quarterbacks. I’m sure it’s tempting for many to declare that we’ve got ourselves a full-blown controversy, if not ready to change starters for good, but I’m not there yet. For one thing, between the extremely conservative playcalling and the weak line play that marked the first two series of the game, Eason wasn’t exactly dealt any favors. He also looked a little tight, overpowering an open [Isaac] Nauta on an intermediate throw that had way too much juice on it. There’s no way to know if Eason would have settled in as the game progressed.
With a new season of Georgia football comes a new season of “Top Dawgs.” After each Georgia game this season, I’ll rank the Bulldogs’ top five performers. Let’s get into it.
5. D’Andre Swift — Add Swift to the list of reasons Georgia has nothing to worry about at tailback for the next few years. When Nick Chubb and Sony Michel depart after this season, it doesn’t seem like Swift will have a problem filling their shoes. And he should have a lot to show off between now and then.
4. Davin Bellamy — There was a stretch during the game where Bellamy seemed to be in on every tackle. Lorenzo Carter usually gets more hype when discussing UGA OLBs, but Bellamy was the best of the bunch on Saturday.
3. Trent Thompson — Thompson had a definite size advantage over the App State offensive line, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was a beast, plain and simple.
2. Rodrigo Blankenship — It’s staggering how much Blankenship has progressed in the span of one offseason. After hitting touchbacks on less than half his kickoffs last season, he sent five of six into the end zone on Saturday. It’s not something fans think about often, but that has a tremendous effect on field position and putting the defense in a position to succeed. After one game, Blankenship is well on his way to earning that coveted scholarship.
1. Cameron Nizialek — How good does it feel to not be sweating over special teams after a game? Nizialek’s punting kept App State pinned all night, and he kicked with enough hang time to stop even an attempt at a return. If he continues like this, he’ll be a major weapon for the Bulldogs.
Honorable mentions — Jake Fromm, Roquan Smith, Andrew Thomas, J.R. Reed
By the numbers
Seth Emerson of DawgNation went through all the numbers you need to know from the win over Appalachian State. You should check them all out, but here’s one number I think most fans will be interested in: 19, the number of newcomers who saw action on Saturday.
RT Andrew Thomas (started), QB Jake Fromm, RB D’Andre Swift, WR Matt Landers, WR Trey Blount, WR Mark Webb, WR Jeremiah Holloman, WR Ahkil Crumpton, G Justin Shaffer, DL Malik Herring, ILB Nate McBride, ILB Monty Rice, ILB Jaden Hunter, OLB Walter Grant, CB Deangelo Gibbs, CB Ameer Speed, CB William Poole, S Richard LeCounte, S Tray Bishop.
Eason wasn’t the only Bulldog to miss game time with an injury on Saturday. DB Aaron Davis and OL Solomon Kindley were also forced to sit after getting hurt, although both injuries seem to be aggravations rather than new ailments. From Emerson, here’s what Kirby Smart had to say about the pair of Dawgs.
“It’s been bothering him, and it’s been tough all week, to be honest with you,” Smart said. “It’s been a frustrating week in the secondary, because we’ve had a lot of guys dinged up. And Aaron is one of those guys, he tried to go. I think he’ll be well in the near future.”
“He probably could have played. But we didn’t know if he could have played his best,” Smart said. “Then, it got to the point of the game where we didn’t feel like it was worth risking it even further and give him some recovery and some rest.”
UGA hoops adds a commitment
This was also a busy weekend for Georgia basketball, as Mark Fox picked up a commitment from class of 2018 PF Amanze Ngumezi. The 6-foot-9 3-star from Savannah, Ga., pledged to the Dawgs on Saturday night.
— Amanze Ngumezi 🦍 (@AmanzeNgumezi) September 3, 2017
Dawgs on Twitter
"It's that grand introduction."
— Georgia Football (@FootballUGA) September 4, 2017
— Scott Duvall (@JawaviFilms) September 3, 2017
— UGA Football Live (@UGAfootballLive) September 3, 2017
Your feel good story of Week 1 is USC long snapper Jake Olson. Despite being blind since age 12, Olson snapped a PAT during the Trojans’ win over Western Michigan.
This is anything but a regular PAT.
Jake Olson, blind since age 12, just snapped for the first time in a live game. https://t.co/amyHcFoVue
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) September 3, 2017
But for our purposes, Olson has a guide dog named Quebec, who by all accounts is a very good dog.
— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) September 3, 2017
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