No doubts now that Georgia's Jake Fromm is ready for primetime

Jake Fromm remains fairly stoic these days during interviews. Georgia’s veteran quarterback is sort of robotic when it comes to answering questions, scrolling through the inventory of sports cliches inside that steel-trap mind of his until he reaches the one that best applies to the query currently being processed. Then he verbalizes it, usually preceded with a “yeah.”

But a sincere grin broke out across Fromm’s face this past Saturday when the battle-tested junior was asked to recall his first career start two years ago. It came on the road against Notre Dame in 2017 -- the same storied football team that will visit Sanford Stadium on Saturday.

The Bulldogs won, barely (20-19). Asked how much different of a quarterback he is now compared to then, Fromm couldn’t help but laugh.

“Yeah, I’m really thankful,” said Fromm, breaking character if but for only a few seconds. “I didn’t think I played my best game at all. I really just put it on Nick and Sony’s back and said, ‘hey, guys, y’all get me out of here.’ And they did. We came out with a win, the defense played great that night and it was unbelievable.”

Fromm referenced Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, the former Georgia running backs now playing in the NFL.

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As he tends to be, Fromm was probably a little hard on himself. While he didn’t play great overall that night in South Bend – he fumbled a handoff and threw an interception – he played good enough to win and exceptionally well when the game was on the line. Fromm led the Bulldogs on a final-minutes scoring drive that led to Rodrigo Blankenship’s game-winning field goal and he also delivered the pass to Terry Godwin that turned into one of the most iconic one-handed touchdown catches of all time.

Fromm’s final numbers that night were 16 of 29 passing for 141 yards with a TD and an interception. He was sacked twice. He also other composed things that don’t show up in a box score. In the end, he won over the Bulldogs – and their fans – with his ability to oversee Georgia’s offense.

“We knew that night Jake was going to be special,” said running back D’Andre Swift, who also played as a true freshman that night.

Fromm’s leadership ability and the trust of his teammates and coaches is why he has remained the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback ever since. He has also improved more than a tad.

“There’s a world of difference,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said of today’s Fromm versus the one that started that fateful night in South Bend. “He was a young, nervous, composed freshman (then). Now he’s a confident, experienced junior. And he continues to get better. He makes good decisions.”

Fromm certainly has had ample opportunity to improve. At this point, he has 32 games under his belt and more than a few of those contests are of the magnitude or greater than the one he’ll start Saturday when the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (3-0) play host to No. 7 Notre Dame (2-0).

This will be the eighth game Fromm has quarterbacked for Georgia against a Top 10 competition. It will be his 14th Top 25 matchup. He’s 8-5 against the Top 25 and 4-3 vs. Top 10.

Fromm has definitely made an impression on Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. He got to watch Fromm at work two years ago, and the Irish have been studying him closely in advance of Saturday’s game.

“I thought he played with great poise; I thought he was extremely efficient; he took care of the football,” said Kelly, who is considered a bit of a quarterback guru. “When you get a glimpse of them as a freshman and they exhibit those traits, you know you’re going to have someone who’s going to be a special player. He’s come along to be that kind of special player. He played with such poise and such confidence. He wasn’t afraid of the moment. He stepped up big. It doesn’t surprise me he’s playing at the level he’s playing at.”

Georgia has provided Fromm a good stage from which to display his work. The Bulldogs have been ranked in the Top 25 since he arrived from Houston County in 2017 and they’ve played a lot of meaningful games since. As a freshman, Georgia went 4-2 in Top 25 matchups with Fromm under center. His numbers in those games were 1,131 yards on 90 of 152 passing (59.2%) with nine TDs and three interceptions.

Last year, the Bulldogs were 4-3 against ranked opponents. In those games, Fromm completed 56% of his throws for 1,462 yards with 14 TDs and six interceptions. That’s 575 passing for 2,613 yards with 23 TDs and nine interceptions over two seasons.

It bears mentioning that he was sacked 26 times in those games, including at least two sacks and as many as four in the three losses to Top 10 teams. So, protection, as always, plays a big factor in such matchups.

As the Bulldogs prepare for yet another colossal contest, Fromm’s presence in the huddle continues to be a calming presence for his teammates.

“He hasn’t changed,” senior safety J.R. Reed said of Fromm’s first outing against Notre Dame. “He was very calm and very poised even then, like he always is.”

As the Bulldogs and Fighting Irish prepare for Saturday’s rematch, Fromm is more confident than ever.

“The guys in the locker room, we believe we’re one of the best teams in the country,” Fromm said. “We just have to come out and play like it. We’re ready for the trek ahead. We know it’s going to be a big football game every single week from here on out and we’re ready for that.”