ATHENS — Jake Fromm has some great moves. A lot of people might not realize that about Georgia’s sophomore quarterback, but they were on full display Monday at the Bulldogs’ first Media Day.
A reporter scrum had already formed in front of a red UGA backdrop well before Fromm arrived in the second-floor atrium of Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall for his first interview availability since the national championship game last January. But when Fromm emerged from a back hallway, he gave the throng the slip. He walked right behind the backdrop in front of the group to another backdrop 10 yards away. Some television cameramen carrying heavy cameras and tripods were none too happy about the move and vocalized their displeasure.
Fromm just grinned as a couple dozen reporters scrambled to reclaim positions around him. He seems to be enjoying all this.
“It’s fun,” Fromm said when asked what it’s like to be him these days. “It’s super exciting. I’m doing my best to be the best role model I can.”
The contrast is incredibly stark between this season and last for Fromm. This time last year, when he was a clearly-defined backup to Jacob Eason, he was nowhere near a microphone on television camera. Monday, there was one waiting at every turn of his head.
And he was quite comfortable there. Fromm kept his answers short and generic, but seemed very relaxed in doing so. That — relaxed, comfortable, confident — was a descriptive theme throughout Fromm’s brief, 10-minute appearance before the media Monday, and in the remarks of his coaches and teammates.
“A lot more understanding,” Fromm said of the difference this time around. “I know what’s going on. I understand the off-season process. Last year, on a daily basis you’re being told to show up and do this and do that and you’re just doing it. Now you kind of have a feel for what’s going to happen in the workouts and what-not. It’s been a lot better. I just kind of have a good idea what’s going on.”
It has become almost comical the lengths at which Georgia has gone to avoid stating that Fromm will start the opener this Saturday against Austin Peay. Nobody, even coach Kirby Smart, will say it straight out. They dance around it like American Indians around a camp fire.
Nevertheless, it’s evident in everything the Bulldogs do and say. No. 1-ranked freshman quarterback Justin Fields has come in and competed well with Fromm. But there haven’t been any developments over four weeks of practice and three scrimmages that have allowed him to unseat the 14-game starter from the defending the SEC champions.
“We’re not announcing a starting lineup for any positions,” Smart explained at his briefing shortly before Fromm’s session. “Jake’s been going with 1s the whole time. I think Jake would tell you the same thing and Justin (Fields) would tell you the same thing. … I think the game will dictate how we get to play those guys and I don’t know how that is going to come out. But there’s no, like, plan.”
This from arguably the most organized coach in college football?
Nevertheless, Fromm toed the company line when asked directly about starting.
“We’ve definitely had a conversation,” Fromm said of he and Smart. “I’ve been working a lot with the 1s in fall camp. We’ll just have to see what happens on Saturday.”
Then Fromm sort of let it slip at other times. Like when the conversation turned to the running back rotation and which back might go first.
Said Fromm: “I’m just excited to see who’s standing next to me when we go out for that first drive.”
So, just to be clear, Fromm will start for the Bulldogs on Saturday. About that, Georgia really didn’t have a choice.
After all, in the 6-foot-2, 225-pound sophomore from Warner Robins the Bulldogs have a quarterback that played more than 900 snaps as a true freshman. And the grand majority of those would fall into the category of very good snaps. As his distinctions of SEC freshman of the year and Freshman All-American would indicate, Fromm played extremely well in leading the Bulldogs to an SEC championship and national runner-up finish.
Not only did Fromm finish with 2,615 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and 7 interceptions, but he also was among top five quarterbacks in the nation in third-down QBR and red-zone offense. Not coincidentally, the Bulldogs saw their scoring average increase more than 10 points from the previous season to 35.4 a game as he led Georgia to wins in 13 of 15 games.
“I think he did a really good job of handling a burden from the Notre Dame game on that he wasn’t expecting,” Smart said Monday. “It wasn’t like he went into the season expecting to be the guy. Yet it turned on him really quick. … He made some plays in that first game and was able to gain confidence.”
That’s what everybody in the Bulldogs’ locker room is seeing heading into Fromm’s second year. Comfortable and confident were the most common descriptions of his teammates.
“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. He works hard to get better every day and he just knows how to carry himself.”
Fromm said there are a lot of things on which he wants to improve this season. He said he aims to be more consistent passing the ball and in making calls at the line of scrimmage. He said he wants to “get better in the pocket and get more accurate.” He also spoke of being a better leader.
As for tangible improvements, Fields said the game has “definitely slowed down” for him as he understands Jim Chaney’s offense better.
“When we were doing 7-on-7s in the summer, I had a couple of moments in my head where it felt like high school, where I knew what the defense was going to run before they ran it,” Fromm said. “I knew who was supposed to be in this spot and the games felt a lot slower for me. It’s continued to get slower and slower for me.”
Of Fields, Fromm was extremely complimentary. He talked about his unique athletic skills and strong arm. The ultimate win-win, he said, is how the competition has served to make both players better.
“We’ve definitely had a lot of fun in the quarterback meeting room and we’ve been 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.”
Obviously, both quarterbacks will play against the Governors on Saturday. If and when Fromm comes out and Fields goes in is unclear.
What is clear is that Georgia’s offense — for now — remains in Fromm’s control.
Meanwhile, there has been some downsides to Fromm’s success and new-found fame. He said he can’t just take off shopping and hit some of his favorite haunts anymore, like Walmart and Academy Sports.
“I’m a little more selective of where I go,” he said. “Obviously time is a big issue for me. I just know where I have to be and when I have to be there, so I have to be careful with that. I mean, I probably wouldn’t walk into a Walmart if I had to be out in five minutes, things like that.”
Comes with the territory. Comes with being the starting quarterback at Georgia, which Jake Fromm is.