Bulldog Nation seems to have two distinct views of early enrollee quarterback Jake Fromm’s likely contribution to the Dawgs in 2017: Most simply hope Fromm will give starter Jacob Eason the competitive push he needs to improve, but some, having soured on Eason after a sometimes bumpy freshman campaign, see Fromm as the QB of the present, rather than the future.
A fan holding the latter point of view kicks off this latest dip into the Junkyard Mail. …
Bill, I am completely underwhelmed by Jacob Eason. I remember Matt Stafford also having a rough time his freshman season, but by the end of the year he’d shown great progress. I didn’t see such progress with Eason, who still looked uncomfortable taking a snap from center, was still throwing into coverage while other receivers were open and continued to overthrow wide-open receivers in the bowl game. Am I crazy to think Jake Fromm has a serious shot at taking the starting job if Eason gets off to another slow start this year?
— Bobby Crowder
Most quarterbacks who start as a true freshman face a steep learning curve, and Eason was no exception. But he did complete 55 percent of his passes, throwing for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns against only 8 interceptions. And he showed flashes last season of the high school talent that made him such a hot college prospect.
UGA offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, right, with Kevin Butler on signing day. (Cory A. Cole/UGA)
On the other hand, you’re right, Bobby, in thinking Eason’s progress was a bit slower than expected, particularly in the areas you cited — although, as I’ve said before, I blame offensive coordinator Jim Chaney for a good bit of that, and an underperforming receiving corps didn’t help. There were quite a few dropped passes, remember? Still, Eason remained inconsistent late in the season.
I did think it was interesting to hear Kirby Smart’s signing day comments about Fromm going up against Eason in practice: “I’m excited about the competition because it is going to push Jacob,” he said. “It already is.” And Fromm definitely seems like he could wind up being a versatile playmaker of the Aaron Murray mode (though we haven’t seen him take a snap yet in college, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves).
Bottom line: I will be surprised if Eason doesn’t take a pretty large step forward in his sophomore year and, given that, I think the chances of Fromm wresting the starting job away from him are slim, barring Eason getting hurt.
Hey Bill, I wonder if, like me, you were amazed to hear complaints about Kirby’s 2017 signing class just because there weren’t any big last-minute gets on National Signing Day. When I hear fans carp like that, I think they don’t deserve to have a top 5 recruiting class! What is your take on our 2017 signees?
— Barry West
I think the obsession with signing day surprises is almost as ridiculous as adults spending the other 364 days a year hanging on every tweet that a teenager posts just because he can play football.
As for the class itself, I was more concerned with how it addressed the Dawgs’ needs, rather than where it was ranked, and in that regard I think Smart and his staff did a fine job. How refreshing to see UGA actually put an emphasis on highly rated offensive linemen, led by 5-star tackle Isaiah Wilson. And the Bulldogs’ haul also includes defensive backs who won’t give up a good 6 inches to the receivers they have to defend, with more blue-chip recruits in the mix with safeties Richard LeCounte III and DeAngelo Gibbs.
Jake Fromm (left) and Richard LeCounte with ESPN’s Maria Taylor. (John Paul Van Wert/UGA)
Plus, the class includes other top prospects, including Jake Fromm. Yes, it would have been nice to have a top-rated wide receiver who likely could be a major contributor as a true freshman, though Jeremiah Holloman (who’s already enrolled) could prove to be that guy. The paucity of defensive linemen doesn’t bother me, considering all the young but now experienced talent that the Dawgs return there. Overall, I’d grade this class a solid A.
Am I the only one who doesn’t know what to make of our kicking situation? We have a freshman All-American in Rodrigo Blankenship, but he apparently can’t convince Kirby Smart he’s worth a scholarship. So we have more walk-on kickers coming in, including a graduate transfer who says he’s been promised a scholarship after the season starts, though UGA hasn’t confirmed that. Doesn’t this all sound a bit overcomplicated?
— Betty Parker
Yeah, a bit. I can see bringing in more kickers, especially as possible kickoff specialists, since that was the weakest aspect of Blankenship’s game. But, if David Marvin, the graduate transfer from Wofford, really has been promised a scholarship (despite Georgia apparently being slightly over the 85-scholarship limit at this point), it’s hard to take that as anything but a vote of no confidence in Blankenship, whose father probably didn’t win any friends for Rodrigo at Butts-Mehre with his very public complaints about his son not being on scholarship. Maybe this will all work out for the best (I hope so, at least), but it does seem to have been handled rather awkwardly.
Bill: I loved your end of the season letter to Kirby and thought it hit the nail on the head. I notice that he more or less ignored the Dawg fans that came for NSD. He just waved to them and did not answer any questions or go around and shake hands, etc. Has he learned anything about being a kinder, more gentle leader of the Dawgs? Do you think he will grow up in 2017 and become a Head Coach? He and his staff had a GREAT recruiting class. Hats off to Kirby and the staff. HOWEVER, we had more talent on the field against Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech and still lost. Will this talent infusion make a difference? Can Kirby and the staff coach them up?
— Jim Carroll
Fans’ signing day view of head coach Kirby Smart. (Cory A. Cole/UGA)
He’s not quite as surly as Jim Donnan was, but Smart definitely seems to have cast himself in the less fan-friendly style of Nick Saban. Remember, he killed Picture Day last year for the fans, too. However, if his teams win big on the field, I imagine the fan base will continue to embrace him just as ardently as Bama fans do Saint Nick. From the feedback I have gotten, most Georgia boosters were not really bothered Smart didn’t address the fans gathered at Butts-Mehre on signing day; they were too thrilled with the job he did recruiting. On the other hand, if he doesn’t coach up all this talent and win big (and fairly quickly), Smart might come to regret not making more efforts to build goodwill along the way.
Bill, I agree with your column on Mark Fox and you reflected my sentiments exactly. I like Coach Fox and like that he runs a clean program. However, I do question his ability to make his players better. Other than Yante Maten, there is not one player on the team who has improved year over year. I question every game why Mike Edwards and Houston Kessler ever are allowed off the bench. J.J. Frazier is not a point guard and proves it with so many turnovers. His shooting has suffered because of all the ballhandling that is required. I don’t understand Fox’s use of young players, and maybe their failure to contribute is a reflection on his coaching. I don’t necessarily want a coaching change, but I do expect a better team. There is really no excuse for this team being so underwhelming.
— Craig Scroggs
You make a pretty fair assessment of the current state of Bulldogs basketball, I’d say. This certainly hasn’t turned out to be the kind of season that most observers expected.
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