LOS ANGELES — Jake Fromm sat down at a podium, media members from around the country descended, and the young kid from central Georgia brought the aw-shucks charm.
At what point did you stop feeling like a freshman, someone asked.
“You know, gosh, I don’t know,” Fromm said. “The only time I remember feeling like a freshman was probably the Notre Dame and Tennessee game. But after — gosh, I don’t know.”
Then came a question that was about something or other, it’s not really important.
“Gosh, honestly, I hadn’t thought about it much,” Fromm began again.
Then a minute later, a question about where he draws his confidence.
“Gosh,” Fromm began, “I just think it just comes from a lot of managing the way God [made] me.”
That was only a small sample size: Fromm didn’t say “gosh” that much more during his 37-question media session. There was no hint of nervousness from the freshman, who has shown this season that he is anything but wide eyed.
Fromm is days away from playing in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma, a national semifinal game, what should be the biggest game of his life. He will be compared to the quarterback on the other team, who happens to be a fifth-year senior and the Heisman Trophy winner. And yet there’s little sense around Georgia’s team that this stage will be too much for Fromm.
“Gosh, I think for me when I get the most nervous is when I know I don’t prepare,” Fromm said. “And for me this year and this season, I think I’ve prepared more than any freshman quarterback or any quarterback out there in the country could have prepared.”
The result: He was SEC Freshman of the Year and quarterback of a team that won the SEC championship and will try to become only the second freshman in history to win the Division I national championship.
All for a kid who started the season as the backup, thrust into action in the first quarter of the first game due to Jacob Eason’s injury.
“If you had told me this season was going to be written this way, I would not have believed you for one minute,” Fromm said. “I’m extremely thankful for the way it turned out for me, but, man, this has been an incredible experience and one that I’m just trying to keep improving and keep getting better from.”
It was about midway through spring practice that Jim Chaney, Georgia’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, saw Fromm’s “uncanny” abilities were apparent: timing, anticipation, ability to see the field. Actually, Fromm has to be careful not to be so advanced that he’s ahead of his teammates.
“It’s an innate thing that he has that a lot of them don’t have,” Chaney said. “I don’t care, you can coach until you’re blue in the face, some kids can’t see it, can’t feel it, don’t get it. And he happens to be that kid that sees it, feels it and gets it.”
That was on display when Fromm replaced Eason in the season opener, not missing a beat as UGA won in a rout. But that was Appalachian State. Next came Notre Dame, and Chaney acknowledges that the playbook was limited for that game. But once the coaches saw Fromm could handle it, they basically went back to normal.
“It was a tight ballgame,” Chaney said of the one-point win over Notre Dame. “I called a real conservative game that day. I was probably a little more conservative than I should’ve been. But it worked, and we won. But after we left that place there was a feeling that, ‘All right, we’ve got a chance to play with anybody right now.’ ”
When Eason went down and Fromm became the quarterback, it wasn’t a case of an entire offseason plan going out the window, according to Chaney. And a lot of that had to do with Fromm’s ability to pick up the playbook in the offseason.
And all the other stuff, too. Chaney, talking about Fromm for the first time since the season began, did nothing to challenge the narrative about his quarterback, that he has the intangibles and the “it factor.” Actually, Chaney embraced it.
“Jake has such a high football intelligence that he gets the game,” Chaney said. “He understands where everybody’s at. He has a great picture of it. He can conceptualize the plays. The game of football is easy to him. What he sees his brain can react to.”
Chaney also stuck up for Fromm, who, according to his coach, doesn’t get enough credit for his downfield throwing ability. Fromm’s completion percentage (63.0) was second-best in the SEC this season, and it wasn’t just on short passes.
Fromm wasn’t asked to do that much this season, thanks to Georgia’s defense and running game. But what he was asked to do, he did it well.
“People always ask, ‘Jim what’s going to happen when you have to throw it 40 times a game?’ ” Chaney said. “Hell, I don’t know the answer to that, but if we have to do it I’m not at all scared of that scenario because I think the kid that’s pulling the trigger has a great brain, makes great decisions and can throw the ball accurately.
“So if it gets to that, it gets to that. I’d prefer for it not to. But if it does, it does.”