HOOVER, Ala. — After back-to-back years of heartbreaking losses to Alabama, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm and his teammates have spent the past six months fixated on one simple phrase:
“The offseason for us has been about doing more,” Fromm said Tuesday during SEC media days at the Hyatt Regency Birmingham – Wynfrey Hotel. “That’s what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to take this team to the next level.”
While Fromm will have to do more to get his Bulldogs to that next level, he got them this far, ironically, by doing less.
He learned early in his college career that he didn’t have to force throws; he could rely on a historically good running back tandem (Nick Chubb and Sony Michel) and an elite defense to make plays and get the Bulldogs back among the nation’s top programs.
That gave Fromm a reputation as a game manager. Except that label wasn’t entirely right, and it certainly isn’t fair.
Fromm made big-time, gutsy throws against ’Bama in the national title game as a true freshman. He was even more impressive last year. His passing efficiency (171.2) was fifth nationally and the second-best mark in program history (behind Plant High alum Aaron Murray in 2012). He also ranked in the top 12 in the country in completion percentage and yards per attempt.
Those aren’t the numbers of a game manager. Those are the numbers of a game breaker teeming with NFL potential, whether he leaves after his junior season or returns for 2020.
“We had a guy come speak the other day to our team talking about characteristics that scouts look for,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “He checks every single box on that list.”
Even so, Fromm has been easy to overlook, even on his own roster.
First there was Jacob Eason, the five-star quarterback Florida couldn’t flip in the 2016 class. When Eason got hurt early in 2017, Fromm was only expected to be Georgia’s short-term placeholder as the starter; he ended up doing well enough to keep Eason on the bench and eventually force his transfer to Washington.
Last year, recruiting gurus buzzed about five-star freshman Justin Fields — one of the best prospects of the Rivals era. Fromm beat him out, too.
“I never really looked over my shoulder…” Fromm said. “I was worried about, hey, how can I make myself better and make this team better?”
For two years, that meant doing less individually. Now it means doing more.
His Bulldogs still have a loaded roster with a standout running back (D’Andre Swift), one of the best offensive lines in the nation and the top-tier defense you expect from Nick Saban’s former top lieutenant. Georgia should, at worst, start the season third in the country and the clear-cut favorites to win the SEC East.
But the receiving corps is a major unknown. Georgia lost its top five leaders in receiving yards from last season. Its returning wide receivers caught 13 total passes last year.
That means Fromm will be counted to get an unproven group that includes Miami grad transfer Lawrence Cager and St. Petersburg High product Matt Landers ready to challenge for another spot in the College Football Playoff.
“I think he’s in a position to do that,” Smart said. “He’s certainly earned that right to be the leader of those receivers…
“Jake has an aura about him. He rubs off on people. He has a positive energy that he rubs off on the other wideouts. I think he’s kind of embraced this challenge now with this young group of receivers to grow those guys.”
To do so, Fromm will have to stop doing less and finally start doing more.