Going into 2017, the Georgia Bulldogs were expected to improve upon their lackluster 8-5 record from Kirby Smart’s debut season. These expectations were reflected in their preseason ranking, as they entered the 2017 season ranked 15th in the AP poll. The expectations to contend for an SEC East title and maybe even more were largely based upon the defense, running game and highly-touted Sophomore QB Jacob Eason. With Eason at the helm of the offense and boosted by a defense guided by the steady hands of Smart and Mel Tucker, Georgia was expected to roll through the first part of its schedule. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, all of these hopes and dreams were put in doubt when Eason went down with a knee injury in the season opener against Appalachian State.
With Eason down, the Bulldogs had to turn to true freshman QB Jake Fromm to come in and save the day. Out of high school, Fromm was a highly-touted QB prospect in his own right. Since Fromm hails from Warner Robbins, Georgia, the in-state Bulldogs were a natural fit. Despite this inherent advantage, they had to compete with the likes of Alabama, Ole Miss, Miami, and other intriguing programs to sign Fromm out of high school. According to the 247 Sports Composite Rankings, Fromm was the No. 44 prospect in the 2017 class and was the 3rd-ranked pro-style QB. Even with his blue-chip credentials, Fromm was expected to sit behind Eason for a couple of years and learn the system. This all changed when Eason went down in the season opener.
Since Fromm took over in Week 1, he has not looked back, as he’s thrown for 2,173 yards, 21 touchdowns and five interceptions in 13 games (12 starts). In terms of accuracy and efficiency, Fromm has a completion percentage of 63%, a QB rating of 168.2 and an adjusted QBR of 83.9. These are impressive numbers for any QB, let alone a freshman. Fromm has definitely been more than capable as a game manager, but he’s also shown flashes of his ability to make tough throws when need be. The guy also displays plenty of confidence for a player of his age.
Interestingly enough, those numbers are comparable to the numbers put up by Baker Mayfield during his first year at OU in 2015. The big caveat to this is that Mayfield attempted a lot more passes and put up bigger numbers in 2015 than Fromm did this season. In addition to this, Fromm plays in a run-heavy offense, while Mayfield plays in an air-raid system that frequently depends on him to make big plays.
Fromm obviously isn’t on the level of Baker Mayfield as far as his ability to change a game, but he has shown plenty of promise in his first season as a starter. He’s a bit more than simply a game manager, as he really has the arm talent to do some special things that many other QBs have trouble accomplishing. One of the reasons Fromm has not put up enormous numbers is simply the way that Georgia is built this year. They have a really good defense that can keep teams contained and boast some NFL-caliber running backs in the backfield. This means that once they get a lead, they can rely on their defense and their running game to control the game. This has worked for the most part for Georgia. They are definitely at their worst when playing from behind, as we saw in their November 11th loss to Auburn. However, that sample size is obviously quite small.
His performance in that first Georgia-Auburn game is the one that may give you pause, as Georgia fell behind early and its rhythm as a team was completely disrupted. It’s no coincidence that this was also the worst game of the season for Fromm. In the game, Fromm attempted 28 passes (his second-highest total of the season) and only completed 13 of them.
Despite struggling that day, Fromm has steadily improved as the season has gone on and is definitely a talented QB on the rise. As the season has progressed, OC/QB coach Jim Chaney has slowly been taking the training wheels off. Against an Oklahoma Sooners secondary that has had a rocky season overall, Smart could potentially elect to let Fromm loose. While I do not think that he can go toe-to-toe with Baker Mayfield in a shootout, Fromm and his ability as a passer should be taken very seriously by the Oklahoma defense.