Freshman Quarterbacks Don't Do What Jake Fromm Has Done at Georgia

Matt Hayes@matthayescfbSenior National College Football WriterJanuary 5, 2018

PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 01: Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs speaks to the media after the Georgia Bulldogs beats the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2018 College Football Playoff Semifinal Game at the Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual at the Rose Bowl on January 1, 2018 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

PASADENA, Calif. — Somehow we've lost track of one of the most compelling stories of this college football postseason, the incredible journey of Jake Fromm from accidental starter to the very definition of a winner.

It's fair to ask now: How good can the Georgia freshman quarterback be?

"His ceiling," one NFL scout tells Bleacher Report, "is limitless."

And that's 14 games into a season that began on the bench at Georgia and will conclude against Alabama in Monday's College Football Playoff National Championship.

As a quarterback, you don't consistently win on the road in the SEC nine months removed from high school and don't calmly and efficiently lead an underachieving yet suddenly elite program through its biggest games with an unshakable, steely resolve unless you're unlike anything the college game has seen in decades.

Unless the game, the pressure—the enormity of the moment—is merely as easy for you as your next breath.

"We are not where we are without Jake—I guarantee that," says Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. "He's a unique guy. I've never seen anything like it at such a young age."

With so much room left to grow.

Here's the delicious reality about Fromm's game: There are no obvious flaws. He's not too short (6'2", 225 pounds), he's not too slow, and he isn't a statue in the pocket. He can make every throw, and as important, knows when and where to throw the ball, with either a heavy or light touch.

He embraces the critical, avoids the inevitable freshman mistakes and accomplishes the unthinkable—all from a guy who turned 19 a week before his first fall camp at Georgia.

If he didn't have that stubble on his chiseled face, you'd swear the baby-faced assassin was 15.

"Look at him, the All-American boy," says Georgia tailback Sony Michel. "Looks like the nicest guy in the room. Then he gets on the field—and look out."

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 18: Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs rolls out on a pass play during the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats at Sanford Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

There's another quarterback who fits the same mold, who was thrown into a similar situation and developed into one of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks. Tom Brady was a caretaker, insurance for Drew Bledsoe and the New England Patriots in case of injury.

Then Bledsoe got hurt and Brady won the whole damn thing. Georgia starter Jacob Eason was injured on the third series of the season, and Fromm is now a game away from winning it all, too.

"Let me be very clear here: I'm not saying he's Tom Brady, not even close—but he has some of the same intangibles you see in Brady," another NFL scout tells Bleacher Report.

"He's a winner. You watch him, and he does the little things. He finds a way to make a throw when it's third down and you've gotta have it. A lot of college quarterbacks when they're put in third-down-and-we-need-you situations wilt under that pressure. Not Fromm.

"You can't teach those things. That's film study, that's understanding the game, that's the it factor everyone talks about. [Brady] is soaked in it. The more I see this kid [Fromm], the more he looks like a college version of it."

Fromm has never been a game manager. He's sixth in the nation in yards per passing attempt.

Besides, game managers don't complete three of four passes on the game-tying drive—including a strike over the middle, into traffic, on 3rd-and-10 with 1:04 to play in the Rose Bowl. Or rebound from Georgia's only loss—to Auburn, and Fromm's only shaky game—with a near-perfect game in a rematch with the Tigers in the SEC Championship Game.

Moments after the Rose Bowl, after he stood in disbelief and watched Georgia celebrate, Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield—the Heisman Trophy winner—wound his way through a sea of fans and players to find Fromm.

"I told him go win the whole thing," Mayfield says. "For him, the sky's the limit. You can tell he commands his offense and he has the respect of his teammates. That's about the greatest character trait you can have."

It didn't take long for the Georgia coaches and players to figure that out. Fromm enrolled early, and during the first week of spring drills, he was directing linemen and wide receivers to line up properly or encouraging them after mistakes. Those things just don't happen with freshman quarterbacks, who typically arrive on campus with heads spinning from trying to learn the offense.

The days of quarterbacks keeping their heads down and not being heard are long gone. If you want to play as a freshman, you have to let yourself be heard on and off the field.

"He's not afraid to get in your face or pat you on the butt, and that was clear very early," says Georgia guard Kendall Baker. "When you have a guy working as hard as he does, you respect that. You see him busting his tail on the field, watching film. He's ready to play. It's the craziest thing—nothing fazes him."

ATHENS, GA - NOVEMBER 18: Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs talks to his teammates during a time out during the first half against the Kentucky Wildcats at Sanford Stadium on November 18, 2017 in Athens, Georgia. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)
Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

That's why after Fromm threw an interception early in the second quarter at Tennessee and 102,455 at Neyland Stadium were so loud the field seemed to be shaking, he didn't get rattled. Taking a backseat to a dominant ground game that chewed up 294 yards, it was just another game to him. Just another Georgia rout.

Why the annual rivalry with Florida—a game that has haunted Georgia for two decades—was another uneventful stroll for Fromm as he played a secondary role as the Bulldogs again relied on their stout defense and dominant running game to prevail in the wild atmosphere at the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.

Why the rematch with Auburn—after the Tigers sacked Fromm four times and he completed less than 50 percent of his passes in the first meeting—was Fromm's best game of the season. Until the Rose Bowl.

Georgia trailed by as many as 17 points and looked like it could get blown out before fighting all the way back. One play early in the fourth quarter was a microcosm of Fromm's freshman season, a clear indicator of how far he has come and what he means to the Bulldogs.

Tied at 31 and facing a 2nd-and-goal from the OU 4, Fromm dropped back, moved in the pocket and waited for wideout Javon Wims to clear on a slant to the back of the end zone. The pass had to be thrown in a tight window, and Fromm, without completely setting his feet or squaring his shoulders, threw a dart that only Wims could catch to give Georgia its first lead.

"We never felt like we were putting too much on him. He's a sponge," Chaney says. "I've been around some pretty special quarterbacks including [Drew] Brees, and this guy is one cool customer. He wants to be in the situation where it's on him. Those things are just fuel for him. We need a play, he wants to be the guy in the middle of it."

It shouldn't be all that surprising, really. He has been in the middle of winning and championship games all of his life.

He grew up a huge baseball fan and acknowledges his first love had him dreaming of playing Major League Baseball. He led his Warner Robins, Georgia, team to the Little League World Series as a 12-year-old.

If any stage could've (or would've) been too big, that was it. All he did was hit three home runs and drive in eight runs. He also struck out 11 of the 18 batters he faced. The only problem: Warner Robins lost in the U.S. semifinals.

"A ton of fun," Fromm says of his time at the Little League World Series. "I still keep in touch with a lot of those guys. But we came up short."

Wouldn't you know it, a lifelong memory from a once-in-a-lifetime moment, and Fromm's lasting memory is coming up short. This is what drives a 5-star high school recruitper Rivals.com, to sign with a school that just started another 5-star high school recruit the year before, a player (Jacob Eason) who set school records for true freshman quarterbacks.

What drives a player to enroll early and play so well in spring drills and fall camp that even before everything changed when Eason injured his knee on that third series against Appalachian State, Georgia knew what it had.

"The competition was so close, it could have been either one of them starting that first game," Chaney says. "To make up that kind of ground on a guy who has been here for a year, who knows the offense, who's comfortable in the offense, we knew we had one of those unique guys."

About an hour after the CFP semifinal win, the Georgia celebration had moved to the locker room in the bowels of the iconic Rose Bowl Stadium. Fromm sat off to the side and tried to explain his surreal freshman season.

Even he—the future star of the college game and maybe much more—couldn't quite get a handle on it.

"It's been such an unbelievable ride," Fromm says.

And it's just the beginning.

Who knows how good Jake Fromm can be?

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