With all challengers defeated, QB Jake Fromm will show Georgia Bulldogs how he can do as ‘undisputed starter’
PRE-SPRING FOOTBALL ANALYSIS
Part I: The Quarterbacks
This is the first in a 15-part series breaking down and analyzing each position group for the Georgia Bulldogs in advance of spring football practice, which is scheduled to begin on March 18.
ATHENS — The past few years when DawgNation would do our annual Pre-Spring Football Analysis, we would always end with the quarterbacks. It was an intentional way to build up to a crescendo before discussing the position that invariably held the most intrigue.
That’s not the case this year. There is very little mystery when it comes to the makeup of the marquee position for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2019. Like never before, this is Jake Fromm’s position and this is Jake Fromm’s team. Therefore, we shall start with his position — the quarterbacks.
This year represents the first spring since Kirby Smart has been the head coach that features neither a highly-anticipated quarterback competition or, perhaps more importantly, a quarterback controversy. We’ll have to get through the season before we can determine whether that is actually the best thing for Georgia’s pursuits, which once again carry the considerable weight of the Bulldogs being favored to win the East and contend for both the SEC and national championship.
- Upon his arrival in Athens in January of 2016, Smart inherited a competition that featured fifth-year senior quarterback and incumbent starter Greyson Lambert versus 5-star signee Jacob Eason. Eason ultimately won that job as he took over as starter in Week 2 and never relinquished the position.
- In Year 2, Eason was expected pick up where he left off as a 12-game freshman starter. But as early as spring ball, Smart admitted Eason was getting pushed by the early enrollee Fromm, a 4-star signee from Warner Robins who once had been committed to Alabama. With no clear plan to rotate or even play in the opener, Fromm ended up being pressed into duty in the first quarter of the first game due to a knee injury suffered by Eason. Upon Eason’s return several weeks later, Georgia remained undefeated and he was never able to unseat Fromm, who would lead the Bulldogs into the National Championship Game.
- Eason transferred to Washington shortly after the season ended. Fromm was left to compete for playing time again, however, as the Bulldogs signed another Top 3 quarterback prospect in freshman Justin Fields of Kennesaw. Fields gave notice in spring practice that he would be a contender with a strong performance in the G-Day Spring Game and validated that showing by getting playing time in Georgia’s opener and pretty much every game the rest of the season. In the end, though, Fields could never significantly alter the rotation or increase his playing time — in fact, it went in the other direction — and Fields initiated a very public and somewhat controversial transfer to Ohio State, where he gained immediate eligibility and is expected to be the starting quarterback as a sophomore.
So, now, Georgia moves on with Fromm at the helm. That wouldn’t appear to be a bad deal for the Bulldogs. They have, after all, achieved a 24-5 record and made it to the SEC Championship game two straight years with Fromm under center.
Ever so quietly, though, some doubt has started to creep in. Nobody questions Fromm’s resident quarterback skills or certainly not his leadership ability. But as the Bulldogs attempt to win at the highest level under Smart, the concern now is whether he is the kind of difference-making quarterback can that lead Georgia to college football’s mountaintop.
We shall soon find out.
Here’s a breakdown of the quarterback position heading into spring ball:
- Returning starter: Jake Fromm, 6-foot-2, 225-pound, junior.
- Others returning: John Seter, 6-3, 180, sophomore; Mason Wood, 6-0, 185, redshirt freshman
- Early enrollees: Stetson Bennett, 5-11, 190, junior; Dwan Mathis, 6-6, 205, freshman
- On the way: Unknown
- Analysis: Georgia’s quarterback room should be considerably less tense in 2019 as there no longer is any question about who’s running the show. Fromm is The Man. That has always been the case to some degree, but now the Bulldogs not only recognize that, they will depend on him more than ever to be that on the field. It’s hard to complain about what Fromm has given Georgia so far. His career passing numbers of 5,376 yards, 54 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with a 64.9 percent completion rate are on pace to be among the school’s best ever. And his career arc shows continued improvement, with his completion rate going up as a sophomore (67.9) and spiking to 70 percent in the six games after the loss to LSU this past season. Heading into his third year as a starter, Fromm is making a concerted effort to improve his speed and mobility so he might become a more effective runner and/or scrambler. He’s also seeking to become a more effective downfield passer as Georgia’s run-first offense behind an improved offensive line should result in more deep-ball opportunities. Compounded by the early NFL departures of wideouts Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley, there’s some question whether the Bulldogs’ receiving corps can give them what they want in that regard. But Georgia feels like it has addressed that issue as well via recruiting and natural progression. And Fromm’s defense recognition and line-of-scrimmage adjustment skills should approach otherworldly status in Year 3.
- Bottom line: As Fromm goes in 2019, so will go the Bulldogs. As a result, there will a lot of pressure on him to give them what they need. But Fromm has spent a lifetime training to be in this position, and his internal competitiveness and resident leadership skills should be sufficient to maintain continued growth. The concern here is lack of proven depth. Georgia has done a good job of manufacturing some help through recruiting. Bennett, who spent one season in junior college Jones County (Miss.) Community College after coming to UGA as a freshman walkon, will be the next in line based on his previous experience in the system and starting every game in junior college. But the drop-off to the No. 2 quarterback will be significant. At the outset at least, the 6-foot-6 freshman Mathis is expected to be a work-in-progress. In a pinch, the Bulldogs can turn to walkons John Seter (R.So.) and Mason Wood (R.Fr.).