Bulldogs to lean on run game against Irish with Jake Fromm starting
Benjamin Padanilam | Friday, September 8, 2017
First regular season matchup with Notre Dame. A long awaited trip across the Mason-Dixon line. Most expensive ticket in college football this season.
Those were the storylines that dominated Saturday’s game for Georgia ahead of this past weekend.
That was before Bulldogs sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason took a hit out-of-bounds after scrambling to the sideline against Appalachian State, spraining his left knee ligament in the process.
While it’s unclear how long Eason will be sidelined, as Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart was only able to label Eason as “week-to-week,” one thing was clear at Monday’s press conference: Eason would not be under center for the No. 15 Bulldogs (1-0) against the No. 24 Irish (1-0) this weekend.
Enter Jake Fromm.
The freshman signal-caller from Warner Robins, Georgia, was thrust into his first action against Appalachian State on Saturday, and he delivered a 10-of-15 performance to the tune of 143 yards and a touchdown.
“Sometimes it happens in unexpected ways, you certainly don’t script that to happen that way,” Smart said Monday of Fromm’s first game action. “I thought he came in and managed the situation well.”
In Eason, the Bulldogs lose a quarterback who was the top-ranked quarterback prospect — per Rivals — coming out of high school in 2015 and, according to Smart, had impressed with “how hard he worked” and “how much he grew” during the offseason.
But Smart added that his Georgia squad is not the first college football team to lose its starting quarterback, and it’s a reality every team prepares for.
“I mean, anytime you get injuries — especially at the quarterback position — it tests your mettle a little bit, and I think that’s what this team will do,” Smart said Monday. “And we’ve tried to put them through adversity throughout camp, throughout [the] offseason. It’s the reason you do what you do. … It’s happened before. Certainly, you don’t plan on it happening, but those are things that happen in football, and you’ve got to have guys prepared to play.
“It’s the reason why you do two spike drills and you have two teams going on. It’s the reason why you scrimmage everybody and not just the [first-string unit]. So those guys have to get prepared. I think our team is going to take it in stride, they’re going to go out there and practice well and practice hard. They get it.”
And although Eason’s loss was unexpected, Smart said he has full confidence in Fromm’s ability to lead the Bulldogs out of the tunnel Saturday.
“Jake is a gamer. He’s just a kid that grew up around the game,” Smart said Monday. “I look at him and compare him to what would be a coach’s son, football junkie. He likes it, he loves being around it. He’s always cheering and fired up out there, and every time he makes a good throw or good play at practice, he’s jacked up and he’s just as excited for the kid who made the play as he is himself. … He’s really passionate about the game.”
Irish head coach Brian Kelly said he doesn’t expect too much of a drop-off in the threat Georgia’s offense poses to the Irish defense either, praising Fromm’s poise.
“I really like Jake Fromm,” Kelly said Tuesday. “You know, I think everybody says, well, he’s a freshman, and you know, he’s only had a couple of snaps. But look, I’m not an expert, but you know, I’ve been in this game a while, and he’s got a presence about him, and he’s very comfortable running the Georgia offense. So we go into this game expecting a guy very capable, in Jake, running their offense and doing the things necessary to be successful.”
Fortunately for Fromm, he’ll have plenty of help around him to run that offense. Regardless of who’s under center, the Bulldogs’ gameplan starts with their senior backfield tandem of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. They are the only active duo in the FBS to each have over 2,000 yards rushing in their careers, and they both rank in the top-15 among active FBS backs in rushing yards.
“Offensively, I think you clearly get the sense that this is, you know, a Georgia team that wants to feature two outstanding backs, Sony Michel and Nick Chubb,” Kelly said Tuesday. “They are elite backs. I mean you’re going to see two guys that will be NFL players and have great careers.”
“Yeah, I mean, obviously I think it’s something as you study film throughout the week, you see the different styles, how they approach the line of scrimmage, the moves they’re making in space, is he a speed-to-power guy, is he moving laterally,” Senior linebacker Drue Tranquill said Wednesday of the preparation for the tandem. “So that’s kind of stuff that you study on your own and have in your own back pocket.
“I think we’re more concerned with personnel groupings and not so much as is Chubb on the field versus Michel. I think they’re both great backs, and I think whoever is in, we’re going to have to bring a great sense of physicality and understanding to our play.”
And that’s why the Irish know they have to stop the proven talent the tandem brings, Kelly said, and force an inexperienced quarterback to beat them in his first start and in a hostile environment.
“Make them win the game. Put the pressure on [Fromm],” Kelly said Tuesday of the keys to the game. “ … I think he’s a good quarterback. So we got to defend him and we got two really good backs [to stop]. So we know we’ve got a challenge when it comes to that.”