ATHENS – Jake Fromm is a freshman. Therefore, he’s not allowed to speak to press before or after games or anytime during his first season. Team policy.
So you won’t hear from him, even though he starred in the Georgia Bulldogs’ scintillating 31-3 win over Mississippi State Saturday night. So I asked Nick Chubb, a senior who’s allowed to talk to the media all he wants, what the kid quarterback might say.
“He’d be excited,” Chubb said with a chuckle. “He talks a lot. He’d probably tell you a little bit too much. But that’s what you expect from a young guy like that who’s playing at a high level.”
Fromm was playing at the highest level we’ve witnessed from him thus far on Saturday. In fact, he was perfect in the first half. He was 8-for-8 passing for 160 yards and had a touchdown on the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage.
And one could argue he stayed perfect well after that. Fromm finished the game 9-for-12 for 201 yards and two touchdowns. But his three incompletions included a deliberate throw-away and drops by Javon Wims and Terry Godwin.
You could argue whether the throw to Wims was a drop, but there’s no arguing the one to Godwin. He was wide open inside the Mississippi State 10 on third-and-11 from the 31-yard line. The ball simply bounced off Godwin’s hands and Georgia had to settle for a 49-yard Rodrigo Blankenship field goal.
It might’ve been the only mistake Godwin has made all season, but he felt bad about it afterward.
“You can’t throw it any better than that,” Godwin said. “He came up to me on the sideline and said, ‘That’s OK, man, you’ll make up for it next time.’”
Yeah, that was the freshman encouraging the junior. But that perfectly illustrates what’s taking place right now in Georgia’s locker room. Fromm is becoming a leader, in every sense of the word. He’s making plays but he’s also making decisions, making checks, executing game plans, encouraging teammates.
It’s all the stuff we’d heard about Fromm when he was coming out of Houston County with all those passing records and accolades. The folks down Macon way, the coaches and the reporters who’d been chronicling his career since he was lighting up Little League, were saying watch out for this kid. If he ever gets an opportunity, he’s not going to pass it up.
And, sure enough, we now have developing a full-blown quarterback controversy. I don’t mean of the bad variety either. This is a happy, good thing.
After all, Georgia’s starting quarterback Jacob Eason went down with a knee injury in the first quarter of the first game, and the Bulldogs’ season laid in the balance on the field right there beside him.
But then No. 11 came in for No. 10 and Georgia hasn’t missed a beat. Wrap your head around that for a second. There’s much season still to be played, but here sit the Bulldogs right where they wanted to be, undefeated and rolling red-hot into Knoxville next week.
“That’s just amazing for Georgia,” said Chubb, coming off an 83-yard, two-touchdown night himself. “Everybody has just bought in and I’m just so proud and happy. We have a great team. Something special’s happening. It’s just a blessing to be here.”
Yep, that’s the vibe that’s going around right now, and it’s contagious. I’ve been traveling around visiting with former Bulldogs, several of them from that 1980 national championship squad, for the Georgia Greats series that’s due to begin next month. To a man, they all say they see a little of their makeup in this 2017 team. That is, it is a senior-led squad which benefited from the likes of Chubb, and Sony Michel and Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy choosing to come back. But then it was infused with a bunch of young talent in that “Sic ‘Em 17” recruiting class of which young Mr. Fromm was a crown jewel.
Eason, whose left knee injury was diagnosed as a sprain, was dressed out Saturday and actually warmed up with the team. But Georgia coach Kirby Smart admitted afterward that was only a decoy, that Eason actually hasn’t been cleared by doctors just yet.
But if Fromm continues to play like he is at the moment, it’s going to be difficult if not impossible for Smart and the Bulldogs’ staff to go back to Eason. None of us can see in the future and know when Eason will be ready and how Fromm and the Bulldogs might be playing at that juncture.
But we can see what’s happening now and clearly Fromm is playing well and performing on an upward trajectory. He appears to be getting better with each passing week, which leaves one to wonder where in the world we might finally find his ceiling.
Georgia did not go between the hedges against Mississippi State’s nationally-renowned defense with an intentionally-thin playbook for their freshman signal-caller. Indeed, the Bulldogs whipped out all kinds of stuff, and not just razzle-dazzle, flea-flicker plays.
They ran a lot of pro-style stuff with Fromm operating from under center. The utilized multiple motions and formations. Fromm checked in and out of plays. We saw two tailbacks side-by-side in the backfield for the first time. We saw passes not just completed but delivered on the money and in stride.
“I didn’t realize he started (8-for-8),” Smart said. “That’s pretty impressive anytime you do that. That’s pretty accurate. He made good decisions as far as what plays he put us in. And I honestly think he read the coverages well and looked at the right things. He had a good feel for the game plan.”
Asked whether Fromm played as well as he possibly could, Godwin laughed and shook his head.
“Oh, no sir, there’s more to come,” said the man who caught Fromm’s 59-yard TD pass on the Bulldogs’ first play from scrimmage. “This was just a preview. With that kid, the sky is the limit for him.”
Surely Fromm can’t be expected to play this well every time out. Opposing defenses are starting to build a file on him. As the season grinds on, they’ll start taking note of tendencies and finding Fromm weaknesses.
It’ll get harder. It won’t always be as good as it was Saturday night.
But the Bulldogs will tell you they knew they had themselves a gamer pretty much as soon as Fromm showed up from Warner Robins. He demonstrated qualities beyond his years in spring practice and summer workouts and preseason camp.
Now the rest of us are seeing what the coaches and players were seeing then. We’ll hear from Fromm eventually, but right now the silence only adds to the mystique.
For now, his teammates will do Fromm’s talking for him.
“You knew it as soon as he came in,” Chubb said of when he caught their attention. “Just the way that he carries himself. He’s a born leader. He works hard, he makes the right calls, he just does what we ask him to do. He’s a great kid.”
Said Smart: “Luckily we were able to get this kid to come here, because where would we be without him?”