ATHENS – The Aaron Murray comparisons began before Jake Fromm ever took his first snap at Georgia. The same jersey number. The same height. The same descriptions of their personality: outgoing, a film rat, a leader who to whom teammates gravitate.
Murray’s own family has seen it.
“My sister just keeps saying, every time I look up I think it’s you out there,” Murray said.
The difference was supposed to be that Fromm wouldn’t have to start as a freshman. That changed on the third possession of Georgia’s season, when Jacob Eason suffered a knee injury. The result: A good performance in Fromm’s first game, a rougher one in the second one – but a win nonetheless.
Murray, now working as a color analyst for CBS Sports, watched Georgia’s 20-19 win at Notre Dame, and the kid now wearing his old number.
“I like what he’s done so far,” Murray said. “Definite need to protect the ball. He’s a gunslinger. Just watching it, the dude just lets it rip.”
Fromm lost a fumble and threw an interception at Notre Dame. But he also led the Bulldogs on their game-winning drive, and has hit on some game-winning passes. He finished 16-for-29 yards for 141 yards and one touchdown. In Murray’s second college game, a loss at South Carolina in 2010, he was 14-for-21 for 190 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions.
Then Murray went on to a record-breaking career, and during it was always praised for his hard work off the field, leadership and knowledge of the offense. When his redshirt freshman year was over, Murray said some veteran players approached him and said thanks for doing those things.
“At first we thought you were just brown-nosing the coaches,” Murray said, paraphrasing his then-teammates. “But now we see the work you put in, and it really paid off, and we appreciate it, because you helped us have a better season as seniors. Guys will appreciate you when you’re going in there and grinding and working, putting the team first.”
Fromm has drawn the same raves since he arrived in January. He also has been thrust into the action sooner than Murray, who had the benefit of a redshirt season. So by the time he started his first game, he had been studying the offense for 20 months, and had been on road trips as a true freshman, seeing those atmospheres. Fromm, on the other hand, only joined the team eight months ago, and these have been his first two games, and his first road trip.
That was a big help to Murray, he acknowledges. But Fromm faces the same in-game adjustment that he had to make.
“OK, I might have been able to whip these balls in (back) in high school and thread the needle, but this is a different type of football, a different type of speed,” Murray said. “The good thing for him is he’s survived these first two games, he’s played pretty good for a true freshman who wasn’t really expecting to play, and who wasn’t really getting all the reps in camp. So I think we have to kind of look at that and take that into consideration.
“At the end of the day he still won a game at Notre Dame. Ranked opponent, on the road, and made some big-time throws. So definitely impressed with what he’s been able to do confidence-wise and go out there and do.”
So what happens when Eason comes back? That’s the increasing question around the fan base, and perhaps the coaching staff. Murray’s opinion: It depends on when Eason is ready to return, and how the team is doing.
Murray mentioned the Florida game: If Georgia is 6-1 entering that game, or even 7-0, it would be hard to change quarterbacks.
“I think a lot of it is going to depend on where they are as a team. If they’re rolling and they’re winning, and things are going smooth, I don’t think you want to disrupt the ship. Especially at that position, if Fromm’s playing well,” Murray said.
“It’s going to depend on the timeline: When he’s going to be back, and how well they’re playing. If things are going rocky, and Fromm has been up-and-down, and the team feels confident that Eason’s healthy and is ready to roll, I’m sure they will go back with him.”
Either way it’s a good problem to have in this case, Murray added.
“You have two solid quarterbacks, and two young quarterbacks that at the end of the day still have a lot of growth,” Murray said. “With Eason, I was really disappointed because I was excited to see in these first few games the growth in Season 2. That’s when you have the biggest jump, is after your first season, because you feel more comfortable with the offense, with the speed of the game. …
“But two young, talented kids. Me, I’d feel great with either of them back there. I’m sure the coaches do too.”
For more on Murray’s budding sportscasting career, please check back at DawgNation later this week.