Ask David Morris what’s wrong with Jake Fromm and you’d be well advised to duck.
Morris owns QB Country and has provided off-season training for Georgia's quarterback since he was setting passing records at Houston County High School. Morris has pupils all across the college football landscape and in the NFL. Fromm remains one of his favorites.
Morris is not a negative guy, mind you. But when it comes defending Fromm from the gathering throng that asks, “what’s wrong with him?” there’s a bit of an edge to Morris’ comments.
In other words, he doesn’t believe anything is wrong.
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“I think everybody out there’s a little crazy, being very honest with you. I really do,” Morris said in a telephone interview Thursday from his Mobile, Ala., headquarters. “Jake Fromm is one of the best quarterbacks in SEC history. You can quote me on that. I think there’s a lot of people out there who don’t know what they’re talking about, don’t know what they’re looking at and don’t know how hard it is to do what he’s been doing.
“I couldn’t be more of a believer in Jake, couldn’t be more proud of him, and I couldn’t be more excited to watch him on Saturday.”
Usually everybody’s singing Fromm’s praises this time of year. A junior from Warner Robins, Fromm has been Georgia’s quarterback for all three of these consecutive trips to the SEC Championship game, the latest of which will come against No. 2-ranked LSU on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Bulldogs are 35-6 in the win-loss ledger from the time Fromm was inserted into lineup in the first quarter of the first game of his freshman year to now. Since then has come an SEC championship, a College Football Playoff berth and a national championship game appearance.
What’s not to like, right?
Only, this season, Georgia’s offensive machine comes sputtering into the title game. The Bulldogs haven’t scored more than 27 points in their past six SEC games. And Fromm, whose reputation has been built on decision-making and accuracy, is completing 46.8 percent of his passes in the past four games.
To that, Morris says, “so what?”
He said the more important numbers are these: 11-1 record overall and zero turnovers out of the QB position in the past six games.
“Jake is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and he’s been that since he’s been in college,” said Morris, a former Ole Miss quarterback who runs his 10-location enterprise out of Mobile, Ala. “Everybody says he’s struggling, but I’m seeing where he’s 21-3 (touchdowns to interceptions this season), has a touchdown ratio of 65 percent and has Georgia back in the SEC Championship (game).
“And I’m telling you, I expect Jake Fromm to play really good on Saturday. I think he’s going to have a really good day.”
So how to explain Fromm’s subpar passing performances the last few weeks?
Morris said to take a look at New England’s Tom Brady for a comparison. The player considered perhaps the greatest quarterback in NFL history has had some struggles passing this season, especially of late.
In the Patriots’ past three games, Brady has completed only 50.8 percent of his passes for an average of 244 yards. More important, though, he had four touchdowns and one interception in those games. And, of course, New England is 10-2.
The other similarity is that both quarterbacks are working with a mostly new wide receiver corps.
The biggest discussion point coming into this season was how the Bulldogs were going to make up for the lost production of five of their top six pass-catchers from a year ago. Georgia already had lost Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, Isaac Nauta and Terry Godwin when the news came over the summer that Jeremiah “J.J.” Holloman was dismissed.
Together, those players caught 154 passes in 2018, or 74.7 percent of Fromm's completions.
The Bulldogs were thrilled to find some answers early in the season. Lawrence Cager, who showed up as a graduate transfer from Miami, was the story of the year before leaving the South Carolina game with an injured left shoulder Oct. 12. Cager came back in fits and starts after that – notably catching seven passes for 132 yards in the win over Florida – but he was unable to sustain through a chronic shoulder separation. Finally, Cager was lost for good one week ago with a broken ankle suffered in practice.
At different times, freshman George Pickens, senior Tyler Simmons, freshman Dominick Blaylock and junior Demetris Robertson have emerged as the Bulldogs’ leading receiver in games. But none has proved to be the regular, reliable target that Cager was.
There also is the matter of Georgia’s new offensive voices in Fromm’s ears. While James Coley was Fromm’s quarterback coach last year, he’s new as the play-scripter and caller. Fromm also lost an under-valued influence in offensive analyst Jay Johnson, who joined Mel Tucker’s staff at Colorado.
You won’t hear the team-oriented Fromm begrudging all the change he’s had to manage.
“I just think it’s getting the whole unit to buy-in to what we’re doing as an offense,” said Fromm, who has completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,385 yards this season. “For us, it’s about playing tough, playing physical and being relentless. We want to score points every time we get the ball. It’s about 11 guys moving in the same direction.”
There’s no denying Fromm’s overall production. That includes a pretty impressive resume in adverse situations on big stages, which is what he will encounter Saturday. Largely forgotten at this stage of his career is that Fromm has led Georgia to three comeback wins when trailing at the half, including games against then-No. 7 Notre Dame this season and No. 2 Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl during the 2017 season.
And while Fromm hasn’t completed passes at a high clip of late, he’s still throwing touchdowns and not interceptions. He has 12 touchdowns to zero interceptions in the past six games, including four scoring tosses Saturday against Georgia Tech.
Being careful with the football since the three-interception outing against South Carolina probably has something to do with the lower completion percentage, Morris said. If there’s a doubt as to whether a receiver is open or running the correct route, Fromm hasn’t hesitated to sling the ball out of harm’s way.
“Look, there’s a lot of pressure on Jake this year,” said Morris, who has tutored 11 quarterbacks currently playing in the NFL, and three who will start conference championship games Saturday. “If he doesn’t play well and take care of the football, I don’t know what Georgia’s year looks like. There’s a lot of people who don’t know that they’re looking at and don’t know what’s going on who just take for granted how good Jake Fromm is. That school and that state is lucky to have a guy like Jake Fromm.”
Fromm, for one, believes the Bulldogs' offense is overdue for a breakout game.
“We just have to win our one-on-ones, have to win some first downs,” he said. “... You know, in practice we see things happen all the time and get really excited. We go against our defense every day, one of the best in the nation. And they probably won't like this, but we give it to them sometimes. So, if we can do it against them, we can do it against anybody.”
No time like the present for that.
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