NEW ORLEANS — Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney said back in August “don’t rule anything out” where the quarterback situation was concerned.
Five months later, it appears freshman Justin Fields is on his way out, even after Chaney said the staff “did right” with how it handled the position.
Sophomore Jake Fromm will get the start when the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) play No. 15 Texas (9-4) at 8:45 p.m. next Tuesday in what’s likely to be Fields’ last game with the program
“It’s been tough, there’s no question about that,” Chaney said at the Sunday Sugar Bowl media day at the Marriott Convention Center, asked about playing both Fromm and Fields in 12 of 13 games this season.
“Every room has competitive spirit to it, and you want them to be able to get along and understand and respect their teammates, which I think routinely they do,” Chaney said. “But that position, there’s only one of them walking on the field, so you can feel that [tension] a little bit, that comes with it.”
Fromm and Fields coexisted well enough to prevent a divisive situation in the locker room, even as it became more controversial in the fan base and on social media after the Bulldogs’ loss at LSU.
But Fields, like many other talented young quarterbacks who don’t immediately win the starting job or get demoted, has decided it’s in his best interest to explore transferring.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said last spring — even before the approval of friendlier transfer legislation — that the new generation of players bring new challenges.
“It’s a me-now society, they want the self gratification, they want to know they are going to be able to play,” Smart said at the SEC Spring Meetings in Destin, Fla., at that time speaking hypothetically.
“I don’t think you play that [threat of transfer] into the decision, [because] then you are being manipulated and dictated to, and you have to do what’s best for your team.”
Smart’s plan to manage Fromm and Fields was to go to great lengths to keep the Georgia quarterback situation fluid.
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It was to the point of not releasing a depth chart or naming a starting quarterback, and insisting on a weekly basis that, “the plan is there is no plan.”
Fromm ended up getting the overwhelming majority of the snaps this season, to the tune of producing the nation’s third-best passer rating while leading the Bulldogs to the brink of another CFB Playoff appearance.
Texas offensive coordinator Tim Beck said Saturday the quarterback transfer phenomenon is only going to proliferate.
“It’s going to happen more at the quarterback position because you only play one guy, maybe the running back position because you only play one guy, usually,” Beck said. “But you’re going to see this happen more and more every year because of this [NCAA transfer] portal and guys having the opportunity to explore what else might be out there for them.”
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Chaney said he can’t predict the future, but he will continue to approach his job with maximizing talent at each position in mind.
“We’re all kind in a new mode right now as we work our way through this, (and) I think kids are kids and they want to play,” Chaney said. “It’s challenging anytime you have good, quality depth regardless of what position it is, you’re trying to find a way to get good players on the field.
“When you have both at the quarterback spot you’re trying to utilize their skills the best you can to help your team win a football bowl and football games.”
Indeed, Georgia thought so much of Fields it inserted him with the SEC Championship Game on the line on fourth-and-11 to execute what proved to be a fruitless fake punt play the team practiced all season.
This, on a night where Fromm 25-of-39 passing for 301 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Chaney re-emphasized on Sunday the objective is to put players in position to make plays.
“If you separate the quarterback spot and look over at the wide receiver spot, and you say, ‘hey that kid’s standing by me on the sideline, but he has a unique skillset, let’s try to utilize him,’ “ Chaney said.
“You look at quarterbacks the same way, and we kinda tried to do that with Justin a little bit this year,” he said. “I’ll reflect back when the season is all the way over, right now, I think we did right, and we’ll see how it plays out.”
As for Tuesday night’s game, Chaney said, “We have’t changed anything from what we’ve been doing throughout the season.”
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