ATHENS, Ga. — Jake Fromm had gone through a spring practice at Georgia, but he was still very much a newcomer in May when the Bulldogs’ skill players assembled for their first day of voluntary seven-on-seven work. The quarterbacks run the show in those workouts, but the ones who have actually played in games usually do most of the talking. So linebacker Davin Bellamy was a little taken aback when the true freshman began chirping at the defense to hurry up so the group could get through the entire script of plays.
“Just right there it showed us that he’s not afraid of the moment,” Bellamy said. “This is a freshman coming in against a defense with 10 returning starters telling them to hurry up.”
The moment will get quite a bit bigger Saturday. With sophomore Jacob Eason sidelined indefinitely with a knee sprain, Fromm will make his first collegiate start at Notre Dame. Fromm’s teammates don’t expect him to treat a game in the shadow of Touchdown Jesus any differently than a seven-on-seven session in the sweltering Athens heat. “He’s no ordinary true freshman,” senior receiver Javon Wims said. “He has the poise of a senior.” Bellamy’s estimate of Fromm’s maturity trends even older. “He has the mind of a 22-year-old trying to make an NFL team,” Bellamy said. “It’s like ‘Let me get this playbook down.’ And he came in showing that day one. It’s very unique.”
Fromm might be new to the first team at Georgia, but he isn’t new to the spotlight. When he replaced Eason in the first quarter of Saturday’s 31-10 win against Appalachian State, it wasn’t his first time playing a sport on national television. That came in 2011 when Fromm was the star of the Warner Robins, Ga., all-star team that made the Little League World Series. In four LLWS games, Fromm hit three home runs, drove in eight runs and struck out 11 of 18 batters he faced as a pitcher. When Fromm returned to the national spotlight Saturday, he didn’t look as if he’d ever left it.
Georgia coaches didn’t ask Fromm to throw bombs downfield. His job was to manage the game, hand off to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and make the correct choice on short and intermediate throws. He did that, completing 10 of 15 passes for 143 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions. Fromm doesn’t have Eason’s golden arm, but he does have a way about him that seems to inspire confidence in an offense. The Bulldogs looked discombobulated on offense for most of last season with Eason starting. Whether they would have looked more cohesive with Eason this season will remain a mystery for now, but they looked sharp with Fromm at the controls.
The question now is whether that was because an overmatched opponent had prepared for an entirely different quarterback or whether Georgia players fed off Fromm’s charisma and poise. That question should get answered Saturday in South Bend. “Every situation will be different,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “App State obviously wasn’t planning for him. So the next team probably will be. We know that. Jake Fromm is a mature freshman who’s going to be able to take over the offense.”
The stories about Fromm told by his teammates and coaches sound like the fables spread about another Georgia quarterback who wore No. 11. Aaron Murray evoked a similar response when he came to Athens from Tampa in 2009. The difference is that Murray redshirted his freshman year because of injuries. As a redshirt freshman in ’10, he beat out fellow freshman Hutson Mason for the starting job.
Fromm committed to Georgia knowing he’d likely start his career down on the depth chart. He had originally committed to Alabama—when Smart was the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator—but flipped when Smart became head coach of the Bulldogs and offered Fromm a chance to play for his dream school. At the time, Eason was a five-star early enrollee who had yet to win the starting job. He would take it shortly after the season started, but Fromm never wavered on his commitment and never really worried about coming in behind a sophomore starter with a golden arm. “I don’t think he ever cared,” Smart said of Fromm’s awareness of the Bulldogs’ quarterback depth chart. “ He loved Georgia. The kid has loved Georgia since he was growing up and he has wanted to be a Georgia Bulldog all his life, so that is what he chose to do. It didn’t matter who was here. He is pretty confident in himself and the best ones are. That’s what he made the decision based on.”
Shortly after Fromm enrolled at Georgia in January, he accepted a Mr. Football Award given by the Atlanta Touchdown Club. On stage, he was asked in a roundabout way about the fact that he’d volunteered to sit behind Eason, and he handled it like a veteran. “I love Georgia football, first and foremost,” Fromm told the crowd. “I’m a competitor. I love to compete. I want to go in there and make him better. I want to make myself better. And I want to make the University of Georgia better.”
Smart may want to take notes, because if Fromm is successful as the starter, the coach will need a silver tongue to handle the questions that inevitably will arise when Eason gets healthy. But for now, it’s Fromm’s offense.
So what do we know about Fromm?
We know he throws better than he sings.
We know he never shuts up at practice.
We know he can whip up some eggs.
We also know he earned the respect of his teammates quickly. What we don’t know is how he’ll handle a starting debut on one of the sport’s grandest stages.
“When you see how the guy prepares, you don’t worry at all,” Bellamy said. “That guy is different.”