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(Perry McIntyre Jr./UGA)
Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm runs untouched into the end zone for a touchdown against Missouri last season. It was the sixth game he started under center for the Bulldogs.

Own the East: After eventful summer, QB Jake Fromm still the man for Georgia Bulldogs

GEORGIA’S OWN #2: QB JAKE FROMM

ATHENS – It was an eventful summer for Jake Fromm. First, he got a fishing lure buried in his leg. Then he had the handle of a ski rope fly into a boat and break his wrist.

Oh, yeah, then there was the No. 1 recruit in America coming to UGA to try to steal his job.

So how does that compare with your summer?

Fromm

But if we’ve learned nothing else from Fromm through all that, it’s that he doesn’t give up on anything very easily – his starting position or his recreational outdoor activities.

“I haven’t decided it’s too dangerous yet,” Fromm said of his favorite pastimes of hunting, fishing and boating. “I’m still going to play around with that and see how much I can still do and stay safe.”

That said, Fromm was worried after the water skiing accident in July. The lure in the calf muscle that required a hospital visit to get it removed a week before wasn’t a big deal, “a 30 minutes and done” situation, Fromm said earlier this week.

But the broken bone in his hand, that was a big deal. It had the potential not only to affect Fromm’s well-being, but that of the No. 3-ranked football team he plays for. Granted, it was his left, non-throwing hand. But at the time, he knew only that it hurt, that it was significantly injured and that he was going to have to discuss the whole situation with his head coach.

And, man, did he dread the thought of talking to Kirby Smart about it.

“I really didn’t want Coach Smart to find out until I knew what was going on and how bad it was,” Fromm said. “I was trying to keep it kind of under the table.”

Nope. That wasn’t going to happen.

He is, after all, THE Jake Fromm, quarterback of the SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs. He is now a recognizable figure everywhere he goes. That includes when being whisked into the emergency room of a rural Georgia hospital to have a fishing lure removed from his leg.

That story went viral on social media in a matter of minutes.

That’s the part of playing college quarterback that Fromm is still getting used to. He has had to strike off Academy Sports and Walmart from his list of favorite places to shop. Because of his recognizability these days, he can’t enter those stores without being mobbed for pictures and autographs. The same goes for a lot of local restaurants.

So, Fromm has had to learn how to adapt to that and a lot of other social changes.

As it turned out, the meeting with Smart didn’t go that badly. Smart himself is a big proponent of water sports, and the fracture in Fromm’s left hand actually was minor. Doctors told him he could be fitted with a small brace and still be able to operate unfettered as a shotgun quarterback. Fromm was able to test it that very weekend in a 7-on-7 scrimmage and there were no ill effects.

And there hasn’t been since. As of this week, Fromm was still wearing the brace on his left hand in practice. But he anticipates not having to keep it on much longer.

“It’s all good now,” he said. “Definitely back to normal.”

As for that competition with freshman Justin Fields, that has gone well for Fromm, too. That is not to say it hasn’t gone well for Fields. By all accounts – Fromm’s included — the freshman from Kennesaw has been impressive on the field and in the meeting room. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound athlete has wowed everybody around with his ability to both move with the football and at propelling it down the field.

Where there remains a gap is Fromm’s ability to run the Bulldogs’ offense and recognize what he’s seeing from defenses. Fromm demonstrated an incredible proficiency in that area as a 14-game freshman starter. He’s only gotten better at it since.

“He’s just comfortable, like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, whoever you can think of,” senior center Lamont Gaillard said of Fromm. “Him being him, he’s just outstanding.”

SEC Network analyst Greg McElroy studied Fromm’s 2017 work very closely over the summer, and he was blown away after a second look.

“From an efficiency standpoint, you’d be hard-pressed to find a guy better than Jake Fromm,” said McElroy, who quarterbacked Alabama to a national championship in 2009. “I think Fromm’s a surgeon. He just kills you with execution.”

As a freshman starter, Fromm finished ninth in the nation in “Total QBR.” That statistic takes into account what a quarterback does on a play-to-play level, including down, distance, field position, clock and score. Measured on a 100-point scale, Fromm’s score of 81.1 stands fourth among returning quarterbacks this season, and within two points of Nos. 2 and 3, UCF’s McKenzie Milton (82.5) and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts (82.1).

Most impressively, Fromm did his best work on third and fourth downs, as well as in the fourth quarter. His quarterback efficiency rating rose from 160.1 to 185.02 in the fourth quarter. He had a rating of 145.6 on third- or fourth-down and nine or more yards, was 176.5 on third or fourth down with three to eight yards to go, and an incredible 298.9 on third or fourth down with one to two yards to go.

There are a lot of other impressive stats floating around out there for Fromm. But the most important one is 93 percent of games won. He was named SEC freshman of the year and freshman All-America.

Fields may be able to improve on that work, but Georgia can’t just assume that based on 25 preseason practices and three scrimmages. Still, as the Bulldogs’ only other quarterback on scholarship, they’re having to get him ready to play right away.

Fromm’s playing his part in that effort, too. Nobody – quarterbacks coach James Coley and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney included – have worked closer with Fields in that regard. It’s in everybody’s best interest that the freshman gets up to speed.

Fromm knows that better than most, having been pressed into duty on the third series of Georgia’s first game last season. That’s why Fromm scoffs at the notion that there is some sort bitter, win-at-all-costs competition being waged between him and Fields.

“We’ve definitely had a lot of fun in the quarterback meeting room and we’ve been having fun out there on the field competing and watching each other make throws,” Fromm said. “Obviously he’s a great competitor. He makes a lot of great plays and a lot of great throws, too. That kind of puts you on edge. You always want to kind of one-up him and make a better throw.”

That dynamic runs counter to a lot of the rhetoric that is out there about competing quarterbacks. Alabama is year two of a competition between Hurts and Tua Tagolaivola and it turned ugly this year as Hurts spoke of having his feelings hurt and possibly seeking a transfer if he doesn’t win the job.

Eventually, the one between Fromm and Fields may intensify that way. But, for now, Fromm remains blissfully oblivious to whatever is being said and written about their competition.

“Honestly, I’ve kind of kept out of it,” he said. “I go to school and I come to football every day. I don’t really read a whole lot. I’m just kind of coming to work and we’re obviously getting after it.”

If what everybody is saying is true – that Fromm has only gotten better since last season – then that could go a long way in helping Georgia “Own the East.”