Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm walks off the field after a Bulldogs victory against Appalachian State, Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017, in Athens. (AP Photo/John Amis)
Photo: John Amis/AP
Photo: John Amis/AP

Bulldogs veterans have confidence in Jake Fromm

Fromm, Georgia’s freshman quarterback, is set to make his first career start Saturday at Notre Dame. Flanked by a pair of ultra-talented senior running backs in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, it would be easy to assume the Bulldogs will lean on the ground game.

But Michel said that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Freshman, sophomore, it doesn’t matter. If you’re on the field, you’re playing for Georgia,” Michel said in a post-practice interview Wednesday. “We’re one team. We’re not looking at it as a freshman quarterback playing (like), ‘We’ve got to help him.’ No. He knows his role and we know our role.”

According to Michel, Fromm has mastered nearly every aspect of coordinator Jim Chaney’s offense. That includes the ability to audible into a better play at the line of scrimmage when needed.

“Jake’s already comfortable with making checks,” Michel said. “He’s been comfortable since the day he got here, seeing, trusting his eyes. If he sees (something), he’s going to check it. I think he’s very comfortable with making those calls. He’s just got to trust himself and trust us to know that whatever he calls, we’re right behind him.”

Junior tight end Jackson Harris echoed that sentiment.

“Jake’s the type of guy in the offseason (who is) doing everything as if he was to start that first game,” Harris said. “So I have no doubt Jake is prepared for this, and I know that he’s going to handle the challenge well, like he did the first game. I feel like everyone saw for themselves.”

The poise Harris alluded to was on display in Saturday’s opener against Appalachian State, 

Forced into action in the first quarter after starting quarterback Jacob Eason went down with a knee injury, Fromm showed few signs of freshman jitters. A highly regarded early enrollee, Fromm led the Bulldogs on three consecutive scoring drives after entering the game, finishing with 143 yards and a touchdown while completing 66.7 percent (10-for-15) of his attempts in a 31-10 victory.

Kirby Smart, Georgia’s second-year coach, was pleased with the way Fromm responded.

“You certainly don't script that to happen that way,” Smart said. “I thought he came in and managed the situation well. Every situation will be different because App State obviously wasn't planning for him, so the next team probably will be. We know that.”

Smart’s assumption was spot-on.

“He's got a presence about him, and he's very comfortable running the Georgia offense,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “So we go into this game expecting a guy very capable in Jake and running their offense and doing the things necessary to be successful. So again, the narrative might be that Eason is out, and he's a fine quarterback certainly, but I think they're in very capable hands. (Fromm will) do a great job for them.”

Still, the first thing that caught Kelly’s eye when he watched Georgia’s offense was exactly what one would expect: the dynamic running back duo. Kelly lavished praise on the pair, twice referring to them as “elite backs” destined for long, successful NFL careers. Trying to tackle either, Kelly said, was a tough task, particularly if they reach the second level of the defense.

In that scenario, Kelly said you can only hope an equally gifted defender is there to meet them.

“If you let these guys go through to the second level and you're relying on your safeties one-on-one from 12 yards off to make tackles, they need to be of NFL pedigree to make those tackles consistently,” Kelly said. “And I don't know that they will (be able to make the tackle) because these two kids are extraordinary talents. So we need a close space, get down closer.”

Despite all the compliments Kelly had for the Bulldogs' running backs, Michel was well aware that Fromm will receive the vast majority of the attention from outside observers Saturday. Namely, how will he fare in his first career start — and at one of the most hallowed stadiums in all of sports?

It’s simple, Michel said. 

All Fromm must do is remember one of Smart’s more popular talking points.

“Coach Smart does a great job of letting every freshman know, ‘Once you touch the field, there’s no such thing as a freshman,’ because you can easily use that as an excuse to not play well,” Michel said. “At the end of the day, everybody that is out there on the field is supposed to be good, so go out there and play good.”

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