Kirby Smart is a fool if he benches Jake Fromm right now
In the middle of the first half on Saturday night, the ESPN cameras went to the Georgia sidelines.
The Bulldogs were already up a couple scores on No. 17 Mississippi State. That came thanks to some dominant defense, a stellar ground game effort and precision from true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm. They came out blazing, seemingly dead set on inserting themselves into the College Football Playoff conversation.
The camera found Jacob Eason, dressed but not medically cleared to play yet. It served as a reminder that he was working way back after he suffered a knee injury in the season opener. It also served as another interesting reminder.
Kirby Smart has a decision to make soon: roll with the true freshman or put Eason back into the lineup? If Smart is well, smart, that decision will be an easy one.
Stick with what’s working, and don’t look back.
Fromm earned the right to keep the starting job of the No. 7 team in the country. By the way, that No. 7 ranking is Georgia’s highest of the Smart era. It took a whopping four games for the Bulldogs to look like legitimate title contenders.
So why in the world would Smart make a change at his most important position?
Fromm checked all the boxes so far. And though Georgia didn’t ask him (or need him) to put up Shea Patterson numbers, Fromm was incredibly efficient early in his college career. Through four games, Fromm took two sacks, he threw one interception, he completed 62 percent of his passes and he averaged 9.42 yards per attempt.
It’s a smaller sample size than Eason, but let’s take Eason’s best four games of 2016 and compare it to Fromm’s start:
Does Eason have more upside? Maybe. Well at least that’s what the recruiting rankings tell us.
But the reality is those recruiting rankings don’t matter anymore. Eason got an entire season to try and live up to those sky-high expectations and he looked like a true freshman.
When Fromm takes the field, he doesn’t seemed fazed by the magnitude of the moment. Perhaps that’s why he already led Georgia to victories against two ranked teams in his first three starts. That matched Eason’s entire 2016 total.
Obviously Fromm didn’t win those games single-handily. Georgia’s defense looks like it’s at a championship level, which it wasn’t for chunks of 2016. Stick Eason with that group and his numbers would probably improve.
But why tap into the unknown — we don’t know how much Eason has really developed — when there’s a guy who’s already doing exactly what you need him to do?
Smart is probably going to play this one up like it’s a battle for the starting job every week. That’s what he has to say. In the modern era of college football, Eason would be one of the more attractive non-grad transfers we’ve seen in recent memory. Declare Fromm the outright starter and Smart risks losing the 5-star super recruit who was seen as the next great Georgia quarterback.
It’s a tricky situation that Smart has to handle right. Make the wrong move and it could easily derail Georgia’s path to late-season relevance.
If Smart gives Eason his starting job back when he returns to full health, he’ll be doing so for all the wrong reasons. Recruiting rankings, seniority and transfer concerns should never factor into the decision to start a quarterback. Is it fair to Eason that an injury could cost him his job? It’s a bummer, but it’s also a reality for anybody at a big-time program. College football is full of tough luck and tough decisions.
Fortunately for Smart, Fromm should’ve already made his tough decision for him.