ATHENS – Jake Fromm is a freshman, a quarterback about to play in his first Georgia-Florida game, in a charged atmosphere that has eaten up more experienced players.
And nobody, it appears, has any worries about how Fromm will handle it.
“Not at all. He’s a natural-born leader,” senior tailback Sony Michel said. “To him, he’s just playing football. His composure, the way he handles himself, you never question the kid for who he is.”
When Fromm takes the field on Saturday in Jacksonville, he will be the fifth different Georgia starting quarterback for this game in as many years. Aaron Murray started four straight, then gave way to Hutson Mason in 2014, followed by the ill-fated Faton Bauta game, Jacob Eason last year and now Fromm.
Florida hasn’t had much stability either lately: Felipe Franks will be the fourth Florida starter in the past five years, and there’s a chance that Malik Zaire will play some off the bench. Franks, a redshirt freshman, has been up and down since taking over for injured starter Luke Del Rio.
Funky things may happen in this game, so maybe this is when Franks, a former 5-star prospect, puts it together. But recent history says this is not a game where either quarterback has a huge game – and it often doesn’t matter.
2013: Aaron Murray vs. Tyler Murphy
Murray passed for 258 yards and a touchdown as Georgia eked out a 23-20 win. Murphy completed less than half his passes (13 for 29) for 174 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions.
2014: Hutson Mason vs. Treon Harris
Mason won the statistical matchup, but only because Florida hardly had to pass: Harris only attempted 6 passes, completing 3 for 27 yards, while the Gators racked up 418 rushing yards in a 38-20 win. Mason was 26-for-41 passing for 319 yards and 1 touchdown. He was not intercepted.
2015: Faton Bauta vs. Treon Harris
Bauta got the first and only start of his Georgia career. He threw for 154 yards and 4 interceptions as Georgia was routed, 28-3. Harris passed more than in the 2014 game, completing 8 of 19 passes for 155 yards, with 1 touchdown and zero interceptions.
2016: Jacob Eason vs. Luke Del Rio
The quarterback matchup was a wash, with Eason’s 143 passing yards topping Del Rio’s by 12 yards, but Del Rio had a better completion percentage and Florida won, 24-10.
2017: Jake Fromm vs. Felipe Franks
Remains to be seen.
There was some shade thrown at Fromm this week by Florida safety Chauncey Gardner, who said Fromm throws “simple passes. I get it. Anybody can throw a slant.” In the interests of accuracy that’s not true – Fromm has hit plenty of deep balls – and Michel shrugged it off anyway.
“I’ll take it all day if it’s a completed slant,” Michel said.
Fromm is averaging only 166 passing yards per game, mainly because he hasn’t had to do that much more. But he had 326 passing yards in the most recent game, the win over Missouri, and leads the SEC in yards per pass attempt (9.6.)
Franks is only averaging 7.4 yards per attempt, but he has a better completion percentage than Fromm (64 percent to 62 percent.)
Still, there’s no doubt which quarterback enters with all the momentum and confidence.
“He was just like that once he got here,” Michel said of his quarterback. “He wasn’t the starter, obviously, and he still was like that. Even when he wasn’t the starter he repped like that and prepared. That’s why when he stepped in he was ready for it.”