ATHENS – Javon Wims made a perfect play, his hands touching the ball at just the moment his foot was last touching the grass, the prettiest-looking Georgia touchdown in its win over South Carolina. The catch was so perfectly executed that it almost overshadowed something else.
Jake Fromm put the football in a place only Wims could catch it. Just as Fromm did earlier in the game on a touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman.
Afterward, Wims claimed not to know anything about the comments by a South Carolina player that Georgia “can’t pass” or a Florida player saying something similar the week before. But when asked about those touchdown passes Saturday, a glint flashed in Wims’ eyes.
“They were amazing,” Wims said. “They showed that Fromm can throw.”
There has been so much talk about Fromm, Georgia’s freshman quarterback, having great leadership ability and managing the offense well. But if there’s something that stands out about his actual passing abilities, it’s one word: accuracy.
Fromm has completed 63.3 percent of his passes, third in the SEC behind Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson. Fromm leads the SEC in yards per attempt at 9.7.
Jacob Eason had a solid freshman season last year for the Bulldogs, but the one thing Eason and coaches most harped about was his 55.1 percent completion percentage, which was seventh in the SEC. Eason’s 6.6 yards per attempt ranked 11th in the SEC. Then Eason got hurt, Fromm took over, and he hasn’t looked back.
So what makes Fromm such an accurate passer?
“He throws a catchable ball,” Wims said. “He gives guys an opportunity.”
But more goes into it than just pure passing ability.
“Jake’s smart,” Hardman said. “Jake, he’s in the film every day. He knows where you’re going to be at, where you’re not going to be at. He knows the playbook in and out. He makes the right calls and the right checks.”
Fromm, not available to speak to the media because he’s a freshman, is adept at quickly analyzing where the defensive back is and reacting to it, according to Hardman. If Fromm sees a defender behind the receiver he’ll have his pass lead the receiver, for instance. He can quickly analyze where to place the ball.
“He knows coverages like the back of his hand,” Hardman said. “So he knows where everybody’s going to be at and where the play’s going to be at, so he knows where he needs to put the ball for us to go make a play.”
Fifteen Bulldogs have caught passes from Fromm, including eight last week against South Carolina. That’s quick chemistry considering Fromm joined the team in January.
Wims chalked up some of it to practice work and Fromm recognizing that every receiver has different strengths and tendencies. So there have been good throws on all types of passes: deep balls, delayed screens, back-shoulder intermediate throws, deep fades. And yes, slants.
“We have a connection, so he knows when we’re going to come out of our breaks,” Wims said. “He knows how to throw to me, versus throw to Terry [Godwin], throw to Riley [Ridley], throw to everyone else in the receiver group.”
Georgia has had accurate passers this decade: Hutson Mason completed 67.9 percent in 2014, Aaron Murray was at 64 percent in both 2012 and 2013, and Greyson Lambert was at 63.3 percent in 2015. But they all were upperclassmen. (As a redshirt freshman in 2010, Murray had a 61.1 completion percentage).
What makes Fromm’s accuracy so vital this season is how it fits within the framework of the team: Riding a great defense and running game, the quarterback can’t make mistakes, but he needs to extend drives with good throws. Fromm has done that.
“From the beginning of the year, he has done well in decision making,” coach Kirby Smart said, mentioning the Notre Dame game as a springboard for his season, and that Auburn will be another tough road environment. “He has to make good decisions. He has to execute the plan. He has to be able to give the playmakers the ball.
“As long as he does those things and makes good decisions, we are a pretty good football team because we can complement defense, special teams and offense. But he has to continue to do that.”