Who replaces Jake Fromm? Taking stock of Georgia's sudden QB battle and intriguing transfer possibilities
There are 2 schools of thought when considering whether it was the right call for Fromm to declare for the NFL Draft. Proponents of his decision will say that he proved plenty at Georgia and has a body of work that should land him on an NFL roster. Opponents point to his regression in 2019, either a result of the offensive system installed by Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator James Coley or something between the ears, and a potential dip of his draft stock. (My opinion was that he should have stayed for several reasons — the least of which was one final chance to lead his program to a national championship — but what’s done is done.)
So Smart faces the same decision he faced in 2018: Who should be Georgia’s QB1?
Yet this pending battle is different, too. All Fields vs. Fromm discussion aside, the cupboard isn’t as stocked as it was 2 years ago. In fact, here’s what Georgia’s quarterback room looks like right now:
- Stetson Bennett IV: Fromm’s backup in 2019, a redshirt sophomore that had 27 pass attempts all season but enjoyed a successful JUCO stint in 2018
- D’Wan Mathis: a true freshman that underwent brain surgery before the season whose recovery timetable is still unknown
- Carson Beck: a 4-star high school recruit who started classes Tuesday
Those three are on scholarship. That’s not counting Austin Kirksey, a former Nevada quarterback who has transferred to Georgia to be closer to his home of suburban Atlanta, or fellow walk-ons Nathan Priestley (the team’s 3rd-stringer in 2019) and John Seter.
So there’s a decent, and likely more than decent, chance that Georgia’s starting quarterback isn’t on the roster right now. That’s no insult to anyone, but it might be unlikely to see either Beck, Bennett or Mathis leading the offense in September against Virginia at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta barring a massive surprise.
If Georgia’s staff wants to keep the program trending in the right direction despite some key personnel losses, it might need to look to the transfer portal. And after watching LSU ride Joe Burrow’s arm past Georgia in the SEC Championship and humiliate Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl, the potential impact that a grad transfer signal-caller can have isn’t lost on Smart and his staff.
A major name that has been thrown around is Houston’s D’Eriq King, a dynamic dual-threat who threw for 36 touchdowns and ran for 14 more in 2018 before sitting out all but the first 4 of the Cougars’ games in 2019. King’s ability to run (he ran it 111 times for 674 yards in 2018) is a significant part of his game that Fromm, a pro-style player, didn’t possess, so that could add a much-needed extra dimension to Georgia’s offense. It’s important to stress that King hasn’t entered the portal and still might return to Houston in 2020, but if he chooses to use his final year of eligibility elsewhere, he’ll immediately become a hot commodity.
“(N)obody would potentially alter a program’s fortunes for a season like King,” wrote 247Sports’ Chris Hummer in December.
Another intriguing possibility is in the portal: Wake Forest’s Jamie Newman. Newman threw for 2,868 yards and 26 touchdowns for the Demon Deacons in 2019 while running for 6 touchdowns. He’s another dual-threat player, running 180 times for 574 yards this past season, but he doesn’t really have the same dynamic, big-play ability that King did in 2018 (3.2 yards per carry to King’s 6.1). Still, if King returns to Houston or latches on to another program, you could do much worse than Newman.
A third player possibility is Stanford graduate transfer K.J. Costello. Costello threw for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns as a junior in 2018, but injuries hindered his progress in 2019 as he failed to match the expectations placed upon him. He doesn’t possess King and Newman’s dual-threat tendencies, but he’s certainly worth a long look as he might fill a similar pro-style offensive mold that Fromm filled.
And looking forward, this coming season could very well be a “bridge year,” so to speak, for the quarterback position at Georgia. A grad transfer could give time for Beck to take a redshirt year and take on an active role in 2021. The name to keep in mind for that recruiting cycle is Brock Vandagriff, rated the No. 1 pro-style quarterback and the No. 8 player in the country by 247Sports, an Oklahoma commit up until New Year’s Day, and a recruit who just so happens to play for Prince Avenue Christian School, about a 20-minute drive from Sanford Stadium.
But that’s another story. Here in 2020, despite several other important question marks on the depth chart (the offensive line being one of them), a big part of the Dawgs’ success—or lack thereof—will hinge strongly on who’s behind center.
And it’s a decision Kirby Smart can’t afford to get wrong.