SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Jake Fromm will start at quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs when they take on Notre Dame on primetime television here on 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 on Monday was that Jacob Eason’s 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 past 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 two interceptions on two pass attempts indicated this past Saturday.
The next option, just based on the four quarterbacks that dressed out for the Appalachian State game, was true freshman walkon Stetson Bennett. Smart talked up the (generally-listed) 6-foot quarterback from Blackshear on Monday.
More than likely, though, if Georgia were to find itself in a situation where it went through its top two quarterbacks, it would likely turn to Terry Godwin and/or Mecole Hardman running a lot of stuff out of the wildcat formation.
So, suffice it to say, the Bulldogs really need Eason to get back quick. 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 quarterbacks 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 one to lose their position. If that philosophy were to be applied here, 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 one’s self the best opportunity to win.
Fromm was given every opportunity 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 just 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 App State game. Fromm got away with a woefully under-thrown 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 against some higher-caliber DBs.
So there was a reason that 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 as an admirer of Fromm just like everybody else. I was thoroughly impressed with him when I met him down in Warner Robins 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 Saturday night 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 they can’t do anything but keep giving him the ball the rest of the way.
That could happen. But as we saw this past 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 last Saturday’s 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 yesterday’s news. Fromm is the story at the moment. All eyes will be on him 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!
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