ATHENS — I promise I’m not trying to create a quarterback controversy where there isn’t one. And I’m quite aware of the talent distribution as it existed on the field Saturday for UGA’s G-Day Game. But I’ll be darned if Jake Fromm doesn’t look really, really good.
Didn’t you think?
Fromm, a true freshman quarterback and early enrollee from Warner Robins, piloted the Red Team offense Saturday and he did it quite well. He was 14-of-23 passing for 277 yards and 2 touchdowns, threw a 70-yard TD to Tyler Simmons and connected with Mecole Hardman for a 38-yard gain to set up the game-winning field goal with 1:03 remaining in the game. Fromm’s team — “Georgia Red” they called it this year — defeated “Georgia Black” 25-22 at Sanford Stadium.
Now the customary caveat here: Fromm was leading the No. 2 offense and that group was facing the No. 2 defense, and occasionally some backups who probably won’t play much this fall.
Nevertheless, Fromm exhibited some very impressive traits. Among them was constant advancement of his unit down the field and the smooth rhythm and flow of the offense when he was behind center. He and another true freshman looked particularly good together. He connected with Jeremiah “J.J.” Holloman 3 times for 77 yards through the first 3 quarters, including a beautiful 42-yard strike for a touchdown.
It was enough that even his tight-lipped coach was moved to provide some fairly profuse praise.
“He understands the offense very well,” Kirby Smart said in the postgame press conference. “He knows the system, he understands what coverages he’s seeing. I’m excited about Jake Fromm. He’s a guy who has grown up a lot in 15 practices.”
Smart had a lot more good things to say than that about Fromm, but that’s the gist of it.
None of which is to say Jacob Eason, the incumbent starter, did not look good. He didn’t at first, really. Took him a while to get going. But Eason seemed to get better as the game went along. At the end of it, his passing totals weren’t bad on what was a pass-happy day: 311 yards and 2 TDs.
But his accuracy continues to be a concern. He was 16-of-36 overall and threw a very ugly interception into double coverage on the sideline with Terry Godwin roaming open just 10 yards away down the hashes. He also was sacked 5 times.
Again, probably had a lot to do with facing Georgia’s No. 1 defense, which I believe is going to be very good.
“We shouldn’t be giving up those sacks and that’s always a concern,” Smart said. “Jacob knows he’s got to take some responsibility for some of those. Some of those were coverage sacks and he’s got to throw the ball or hit the checkdown. There was 2 or 3 times he missed the backs with the ball and that can turn into a big play.”
It wasn’t as much about what Eason did or didn’t do or even what Fromm did as much as how he did it. Fromm does very, very well when it comes to the eye test. It’s his presence. He just carries himself well and looks like he knows what he’s doing. He’s the spitting image of Aaron Murray, from their physiques, to their on-field disposition, to the No. 11 jersey.
And Fromm’s numbers could have been even better. Simmons hurt him early on with a couple of drops and a fumble off another reception. And Hardman failed to haul in a beautifully-delivered ball in the back corner of the end zone that would’ve been a touchdown instead of the field goal they settled for.
On another scoring drive, Elijah Holyfield went for a short gain to give the Red team first-and-goal inside the 10. At the end of the play, Fromm hustled into the pile to pat tackle Aulden Bynum on the helmet for executing the key block.
“Fromm is a very smart quarterback,” said senior split end Javon Wims. “He’s like a coach. Kind of like Eason but, as a young guy, you don’t expect somebody to go out there and be very vocal. We expected him to come in and be in a shell a little bit as a freshman. But he came out and established that he can lead this offense when his shot is given to him.”
Asked how quickly that was apparent, Wims said, “It was preseason workouts, in shorts, in 7-on-7. He was being vocal out there. I guess he’s learning from Eason.”
And that’s the key for Georgia. I’m not going to sit here and say I think Fromm beats out Eason for the starting quarterback job this fall. It’s going to be hard in a few months to overcome 12 games of starting experience that Eason accrued last season. That’s quite a head start.
But I don’t think it’s an automatic now that Eason is always going to be the starter while he’s at Georgia. And at the very least, I believe the Bulldogs are going to be in good shape if for some reason Fromm gets pressed into service right away.
And Georgia’s offensive players are feeling that way, too.
“They’re both great, and you always have somebody pushing the one,” said Godwin, who led all receivers with 130 yards on 5 catches Saturday. “You always have somebody pushing somebody, whether it’s Jake pushing Jacob or Jacob pushing Jake. They’re always increasing each other’s level and pushing their games to another height.”
Godwin was asked straight out if he thought Fromm could take the starting job away from Eason.
“I mean, if Coach made that decision and it’s best for our team, I’d be proud with it. From what I’ve seen, they’re both doing great. I don’t know if he can take the position but I know it’s a great battle and they’re both doing great.”
Again, it’s doubtful that anybody other than Eason will start Georgia’s opener this fall. At the end of the day, Fromm and Eason are teammates and they both have the same team goals.
Afterward, Eason was impressed as anybody from what he saw from Fromm.
“He did a really good job today,” Eason said. “Coming out he was probably a little wide-eyed like we all would be as freshmen, like I was last year. But he did a really good job of showing composure and going out there and finding his guys and making his reads and made some really good throws. I’m proud of him.
“We get along really well. We’ll hang out tonight and we’ll talk about the game tomorrow.”