Mike Check

Michael Cunningham’s ramblings from the world of sports

After dust settles on QB transfers, Georgia in good shape with Fromm

The transfer portal opened wide in college football. A lot of talented quarterbacks rushed through it. 

Jalen Hurts, formerly of Alabama, will now play at Oklahoma. Austin Kendall, backup to two Heisman Trophy QBs at Oklahoma, is headed to West Virginia. 

Ex-Georgia quarterback Justin Fields left for Ohio State, prompting Tate Martell to leave for Miami. Kelly Bryant went to Missouri after Trevor Lawrence emerged as Clemson’s star. Sam Ehlinger starred for Texas, so Shane Buechele is looking for a school to be named later. 

Meanwhile, Georgia must settle for Jake Fromm. Tough break for the Bulldogs to be stuck with merely a top-5 quarterback in college football. 

Georgia comes out looking relatively good after all the QB shuffling at major programs. Hurts is less of a direct threat now. The other quarterbacks in new places are playing for teams that aren’t on Georgia’s schedule, not at its level, or both. 

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I submit that the Bulldogs would be in good shape even if the transfer portal had produced QB threats directly in their path. That’s because they have the best QB in the SEC outside of Tuscaloosa. 

Fromm is experienced. He’s productive, accurate, smart and tough. The only knock on Fromm is that he’s not Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama), Lawrence or Hurts, which isn’t really a knock at all. 

Alabama is an obstacle for Georgia, as always. The Bulldogs can overcome it with Fromm as quarterback. Now they will have to deal with only one great Alabama QB, if it comes to that (and it will).  

Better yet for the Bulldogs, Hurts won’t play anywhere in the SEC. That always seemed like a remote possibility. Making it official makes one less thing for Georgia to worry about. 

Georgia shored up its QB depth by plucking recruit Dwan Mathis from Big Ten country and (re)adding Stetson Bennett. The situation was much better with Fields, but at least the Buckeyes aren’t on the schedule and Urban Meyer won’t be on their sidelines. (Fields may not be eligible to play in 2019, anyway.) 

The focus now should be on what Georgia has at quarterback. As a freshman Fromm took Georgia to an SEC championship and the College Football Playoff. He nearly did both again in 2018. Fromm is a legitimate prospect for the 2020 draft, with room to grow. 

I never bought the assumption that Fields would eventually supplant Fromm as starter in 2018. That view wasn’t warranted by Fromm’s play in 2017. By the end of that season he was playing very well against tough competition. 

Sure enough, Fromm was so good in 2018 that there never was any real controversy about which QB should play. 

Granted, Kirby Smart and his staff never seemed to figure out how to use Fields. That was true even before the fateful fake punt against Alabama. When Fromm struggled at LSU, Fields came on, only to run the same stripped-down offense. 

Fromm recovered from that LSU game to play well down the stretch. He did the same thing after a shaky performance against Auburn in November 2017. And all of the Georgia offense struggled in those games, not just Fromm. 

A fierce pass rush can fluster Fromm. That happens to the best of quarterbacks. Some have bad games even when they aren’t constantly harassed in the pocket (see Tagovailoa vs. Clemson in the CFP Championship game). 

Fromm hasn’t had many bad performances. He had just one during the 2018 season, if you throw out the Sugar Bowl, which you should. Fromm really hasn’t played two bad games in a row since establishing himself as the guy. 

That’s why Fields didn’t see more meaningful action. Maybe he could have shined more if Georgia had a better plan for him. Maybe he’d also still be at Georgia. 

But that perspective shortchanges Fromm. It’s more important to go with your best quarterback rather than shoehorn in the other guy to keep him happy. Fromm earned what he got. 

That’s not a shot at Fields, who owes Georgia no loyalty. I hope it works out for him at Ohio State. I hope he gets to play in 2019. 

Fields is part of a trend. According to David Hale, formerly of ESPN, among the 25 total recruits ranked in the top five of each class from 2013-18, 13 ended up transferring. What some may see as a worrying development, I view as welcome pressure on a system stacked against the players. 

Oklahoma hit it big by getting Hurts, the most coveted of the QB transfers. He can play right away, so the Sooners replace a Heisman winner with another great QB.  

Tagovailoa was smarting after the loss to Clemson. He wasn’t good, but credit to Clemson, which confused him with its pass coverage. Tagovailoa vowed the Crimson Tide will be back, and it’s hard to bet against them with him at quarterback. 

Lawrence also is a special talent. Clemson will have him for at least two more seasons. Or maybe I should say they likely will have him because who knows what can happen. Hurts seemed entrenched as Alabama’s starter until Tagovailoa came along.

Like Hurts, Fromm was challenged by a hot-shot recruit. It ended up not being much of a competition. After all these QB changes in big-time college football, Georgia still has one of the best.

About the Author

Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010. 

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