On the beat: Georgia QB Jake Fromm embracing challenges, silencing critics
ATHENS — Georgia sophomore Jake Fromm has operated under more pressure than arguably any quarterback in the nation the past two seasons.
But Fromm — 20 years old, seemingly going on 35 — shrugs off critics who question him despite his 21-3 record and gaudy 67.5 completion percentage.
Expectations at Georgia have never been higher after the program won the 2017 SEC title game with Fromm under center and narrowly missed dethroning Alabama in the College Football Playoff Championship Game.
“You just don’t worry about it,” Fromm said Monday afternoon. “You put your head down and keep working. If you hear good things you keep working, if it’s bad things you keep working.
“I know what my family says about me, and I know what my teammates say about me, and that’s all I need.”
Fromm’s resilience is impressive. If anything, he seems to feed off the segment of doubters in the Georgia fan base who continue to rail for unproven freshman quarterback Justin Fields to replace him in the lineup.
“You like being in these kind of situations,” Fromm said. “It’s fun, it’s exciting and it makes you who you are.”
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart, perhaps the only Georgia figure who can relate to the pressure Fromm deals with, was beaming after Fromm’s commanding performance in the make-or-break road win in Jacksonville, Fla., against the Gators.
“I’m sure he felt and heard the noise,” Smart said, referring to what must have seemed like an eternal bye week for Fromm and the Bulldogs in the aftermath of their worst performance of the season, a 36-16 loss at LSU.
“Jake works as hard as anybody on our team and he believes in the players around him,” Smart said after Fromm dissected Florida. “He understands what we’re trying to do offensively, and he did a good job of dealing out the ball when he had an opportunity and he made some big throws tonight to some guys that were open and to some guys that were in tight coverage.”
Former SEC quarterback legend Tim Tebow, of all people, predicted the day before the Florida game that Fromm would bounce back from the loss at LSU.
“I think he’s underrated, and I think he had a really tough week against LSU,” Tebow said. “I don’t think that they necessarily game-planned it well. He got a little bit shell-shocked, but I think he’ll bounce back from that.
“He’s handled big moments so I wouldn’t say that the moment of LSU got to him, I’d say that (it was) a really good defense that dialed up 11 pressures and hit him in the face quite a bit.”
Smart directed his offensive staff to work on pass protection during the bye week, while Fromm and his receivers worked to get more in sync.
Wins over Florida, Kentucky and Auburn have ensued, and now Fromm is trying to make sure the Bulldogs keep the pedal down for the UMass game at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
“ We really want to go out there and try to get better,” Fromm said. “Everyone is playing off each other, and everyone is in that groove right now, hopefully we can keep rolling with it.”
NFL Coach of the Year and quarterback whisperer Bruce Arians saw it coming before the season, noting Fromm’s leadership and poise as far back as spring drills.
“Man, what an unbelievable leader,” Arians told DawgNation. “Jake has an unbelievable amount of moxie about him, to take a team like that, and take charge with all the great athletes they have. The respect factor in that locker room I saw was amazing.”
Fromm doesn’t accept compliments any more than he allows outside criticism to bother him, instead deflecting accolades to the team.
“Yeah, the team is definitely taking strides right now, the caliber of opponents we’ve been playing and how we’ve been able to run the football and play as a team,” Fromm said. “Defense is playing at an unreal level right now, stopping the run, and getting off the field on third downs. So we’ll try to keep going and chopping away at it.”
Fromm, selected as the FWAA Freshman All-American quarterback last season, has been named one of 16 semifinalists for the Dave O’Brien Award.
Smart insists on a balanced, pro-style attack, so Fromm might not have the numbers to win any individual awards.
Fromm won’t let that bother him, either.
“I’m just trying to go out and make the right checks, do what I got to do to give the offense the best chance to succeed,” Fromm said, “whether that’s throwing it 80 times a game or handing off 80 times a game, doesn’t really matter to me, as long as the offense is doing well and the team is winning.”
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