SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Jake Fromm will start at quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs when they take on Notre Dame on primetime television here Saturday night. This much we know.
What we can’t know is how this whole quarterback drama is going to play out the rest of the season. And for me, that’s going to be the most interesting part of this unexpected development.
The good news that coach Kirby Smart shared Monday was that Jacob Eason’s left knee injury is not too serious and that he’ll be back this season. Exactly when that might be, he couldn’t say beyond his recovery will be “week to week.”
But this much is certain: Georgia needs Eason back on the field ASAP.
In case you didn’t notice this last Saturday, the Bulldogs are in a real dilemma when it comes to quarterback depth. It truly was a wonderful thing for UGA when Brice Ramsey decided to come back for his final season after unsuccessfully seeking a transfer. But he remains very, very rusty, or just plain incapable, as his 2 interceptions on 2 pass attempts against Appalachian State indicated.
The next option, just based on the four quarterbacks who dressed for the Appalachian State game, was freshman walk-on Stetson Bennett. Smart talked up the (generously listed) 6-foot quarterback from Pierce County High School in Blackshear, Ga., on Monday.
More than likely, though, if Georgia were to find itself in a situation where it went through its top two quarterbacks, it likely would turn to Terry Godwin and/or Mecole Hardman running a lot of plays out of the Wildcat formation.
So, suffice it to say, the Bulldogs really need Eason to get back — and fast. And how they might handle the rotation when he returns is going to be very interesting to observe.
Certainly, you would have to think that what Fromm does in these next few games while Eason is sidelined will dictate to a great degree how Georgia’s coaches handle the quarterback position when Eason returns. But we can’t know that 100 percent at this point. Smart hasn’t discussed his philosophy on that.
For some coaches the belief is that an injury can’t cause a player to lose his position. If Smart applies that philosophy, then Eason would return to starting status immediately upon his healthy return.
I doubt it’ll be that simple. But here’s where we have to be reminded: Major college football is not a popularity contest. This game is all about winning and giving a team the best opportunity to win.
Fromm was given every chance to win the starting job through the spring, summer and preseason camp. He was unable to do so. I wasn’t there and can’t independently verify it, but according to some who were, Fromm threw at least a couple of interceptions in each of the Bulldogs’ three preseason scrimmages. He didn’t demonstrate the arm strength that Georgia requires for some of the routes it utilizes in its vertical passing game.
We saw that to some extent in the Appalachian State game. Fromm got away with a woefully underthrown deep ball to a wide-open Godwin in the end zone, thanks to an interference call. And even the 37-yard touchdown pass to Javon Wims had a lot of air under it and might’ve been picked off by some higher-caliber defensive backs.
So there was a reason why Eason was designated the starting quarterback at the outset of the season. Well, really well before that. We saw the narrative shift rather decisively from “Fromm’s pushing the incumbent starter” in spring practice to “Eason is our quarterback” at SEC Football Media Days in mid-July.
That’s because Georgia’s coaches agreed they had seen enough at that point to determine that Eason gave them the best chance to win.
That said, I’m an admirer of Fromm, just as everybody else is. I was impressed with him when I met him in Warner Robins, Ga., last December. I’m a journalist and a storyteller and I’m always going to root for a great story. And Fromm coming off the bench to rally the Bulldogs to 31 points last Saturday and coming into Notre Dame Stadium to make his first career start in Week 2 of his freshman season is a great story.
Just for the sake of plot twists and reader engagement, I really hope the kid plays the game of his life and leads Georgia to a resounding victory over the Fighting Irish. And maybe Fromm does like he has at every other phase of his athletic career and just gets better and better from there — and the Bulldogs keep winning and can’t do anything but keep giving him the ball the rest of the way.
That could happen. But as we saw last Saturday night in Athens, what we expect to happen or hope to happen rarely does. We were told about all these strides Eason had made coming into the opener. Certainly he did not look very good in the eight plays we got to see him in action against Appalachian State. But that’s not a fair sample size on which to judge anybody.
For now, that’s old news. Fromm is the story at the moment. All eyes will be on him this Saturday night as he makes his national debut on arguably the biggest stage in college football. But soon enough this season, we’re being told, Eason is going to be back. When he is, there’s going to be a full-blown quarterback controversy in Athens all over again.
But, man, it’s going to be fun seeing how this whole thing turns out!