Georgia's Jake Fromm already a great QB, not just a great freshman QB
The SEC was supposed to be better at quarterback this year than it was last year, due in part to all the experienced starters returning.
Nevertheless, a true freshman is the conference’s top-rated passer through Week 7. Georgia’s Jake Fromm, who is coming off a monster performance in a 53-28 blowout win over Missouri, leads the list with an efficiency rating of 170.4.
The one-time 4-star recruit from Warner Robins (Ga.) Houston County High School completed 18-of-26 passes for 326 yards — that’s a ridiculous 12.5 yards per attempt — with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. Fromm spread the football around beautifully, as five different Bulldogs were credited with a reception of at least 22 yards.
Granted, the Tigers are a train wreck defensively. They’re dead last in the league in both yards and points allowed per game.
That doesn’t make Fromm’s career day any less impressive, though. Even if UGA is still bringing up the rear in the SEC with only 171.4 yards per game through the air, Fromm has made the most of his opportunities to pull the trigger.
We know the Dawgs have a sensational ground game — tailbacks Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, D’Andre Swift, Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien combine to average 6.5 yards per carry — and don’t revolve their game plan around a play-making QB. That being said, Fromm has balanced the team in ways that former No. 1 Jacob Eason simply never did.
Fromm’s teammates noticed something special the moment he arrived on campus, even prior to him rising to the top of the depth chart.
“Way before the guy was even a starter, I knew he was a natural-born leader,” linebacker Roquan Smith said after the Mizzou game, according to 247Sports. “First days he got up here, he was calling everything, watching film just like a veteran. He was in the spring time and everything like that.”
Keep in mind that Fromm didn’t inherit a ready-made offense. In 2016, the line failed to open up holes consistently or protect Eason very well. Neither Chubb nor Michel was 100-percent healthy. The receiving corps dropped a lot of passes.
But so far in 2017, Fromm’s influence been felt by every position group. The blocking in the trenches has been much more reliable. Chubb and Michel are both running like their old selves. While there isn’t a true primary target — leading receiver Javon Wims averages 2.6 catches per game — the group’s collective hands have been stickier.
While Eason is overflowing with measurables, Fromm brings intangibles to the huddle. At the game’s most important position, that matters.
“Jake’s great. He’s a great leader,” receiver Mecole Hardman said. “We look up to him. We expect him to make plays like he’s been making. We expect him to lead the team.”
Fromm should be looking up to Hardman, by the way, not the other way around. Players right out of high school aren’t supposed to be immediate leaders at the next level, especially at blue-blood schools with veterans up and down the roster.
Something special is happening in Athens, though. Second-year coach Kirby Smart has his club playing with a sense of urgency rarely seen under former coach Mark Richt. As a result, Georgia is now 7-0 — Week 8 is a bye and a chance to lick some wounds — and up to No. 3 in the country in both major polls. The program hasn’t been ranked this high since 2012.
Make no mistake about it: The Bulldogs are genuine contenders for the College Football Playoff with a true freshman signal caller.
Of course, that was the case for Alabama this past season, as well. Jalen Hurts proved to be a dual-threat revelation and earned offensive-player-of-the-year honors in the conference as a result. He came up only a few seconds short of winning a national title.
Like Hurts, Fromm looks unflappable with live bullets firing around him. He’s a 62-percent passer with a TD-to-INT ratio of 12-to-3 — Eason last year was at 55.1 and 16-to-8, respectively — and averages a league-best 9.6 yards per attempt. Whatever offensive coordinator Jim Chaney calls, it just works better with Fromm at the controls instead of Eason.
According to late, great basketball coach Al McGuire, “The best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores.”
By the time Fromm emerges from this bye week, with an extra seven days to prepare for reeling rival Florida in Week 9, he’ll essentially be a sophomore. He’s made very few freshman mistakes, so there’s no reason to expect them now.
The Gators, on the other hand, are going nowhere with their struggling field general — remember, Feleipe Franks is a redshirt freshman with an extra year of experience in the system — after back-to-back home losses to LSU and Texas A&M. A third straight trip to the SEC Championship Game doesn’t seem to be in the cards for coach Jim McElwain.
He’s not going to face a UGA squad resting on its laurels, either. Smart has way too much Nick Saban in him to ever let that happen.
“I’m looking forward to practice because I want to get better,” he said. “It’s not off week, not bye week, but work week.”
By the time the Dawgs get to Jacksonville for the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party, Fromm will be that much more established as one of the premier passers in the conference. He can eliminate UF from the East race with a W.
It’s time to stop saying Fromm is a great quarterback for a freshman — he’s a great quarterback, period. That efficiency rating? Not only is it tops in the conference, but it’s No. 6 nationally and ahead of Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Washington’s Jake Browning, who finished first in sixth in this past year’s Heisman Trophy race, respectively.
Age was a non-factor a season ago with Hurts. Now is no time to think differently for Fromm based on what he’s shown thus far.