Georgia QB Jake Fromm firmly focused on winning Sugar Bowl

Georgia junior quarterback Jake Fromm discusses about returning to New Orleans for bowl game and looming pro decision. (Video by Chip Towers/AJC)

It was strictly a hypothetical question, and for that reason Jake Fromm was hesitant to answer it. But, finally, he relented and offered a reply.

He said even if he was projected as Top 10 NFL Draft pick, such as teammate Andrew Thomas and few other underclassmen across the country are, he’d still be playing with his team in the Sugar Bowl this week.

“I love this football team, I love this university. For me, I think I definitely would play,” said Fromm, who quickly offered a qualifier. “Now I’m hypothetically speaking and I’m not in that position at all. But I love this team and university and it’d be an opportunity for me to play one last time with my brothers.”

» MORE: D'Andre Swift unsure about playing in Sugar Bowl

To be clear, Georgia's junior quarterback does have an NFL Draft decision to make. He is considered a serious pro prospect, even as a junior coming off the worst season of his storied career. In fact, he said he already has received his draft grade from the league.

Fromm didn't bother sharing that determination Sunday as he joined five offensive teammates in a news conference at the Marriott Convention Center here in advance of the 86th Sugar Bowl.

The truth is, nobody really knows where anybody will be selected. Mock drafts, which are possibly more inexact  than even recruiting rankings, have Fromm going anywhere from the first round to the 161st pick to not at all. But well-respected draft experts such as ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay are on record stating that Fromm is still considered a valuable commodity and an exceptional talent on the next level.

McShay, for one, adamantly refutes the national narrative that Fromm has regressed in his third season as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback. About that, James Coley, Fromm’s position coach at Georgia, wholeheartedly agree.

» MORE: James Coley on Georgia's offensive struggles

There’s no denying that Fromm has regressed statistically, from a 67% passer last year to 47% over the Bulldogs’ last five games. But that doesn’t mean Fromm is a lesser quarterback than the one that led Georgia to the national championship game as a freshman or the one that entered the 2019 season as a projected Heisman Trophy contender.

“Jake’s performance, I would say, with Lawrence Cager in the game was something like he was at 71% completion for the season,” said Coley, who has tutored Fromm since last season. “Lawrence Cager is not in the game, he’s what? It’s a lot lower. Has he regressed, or have his stats regressed, right? I would say the stats regressed.”

Reviewing Georgia’s season, Fromm — and Georgia’s offense — definitely suffered from the loss of the 6-foot-5 graduate transfer from Miami. In the five games heading into the South Carolina matchup, he completed a gaudy 78.6% of his passes, most of them going to Cager.

Fromm completed 54.9 of his throws and threw three interceptions after throwing none all season after Cager went out with a shoulder injury in the first quarter in the overtime loss to the Gamecocks. Cager came back two games later against Florida and Fromm completed 67% of throws, including seven for 132 yards and a touchdown to Cager. Out for all or parts of the remaining five games, Fromm was 71 of 151 (.470) for 925 yards, yet still managed 11 touchdown passes to two interceptions, both coming against LSU in the SEC title game.

Fromm, a notorious film junkie and student of the game, can recite all those numbers, too, and probably recall each play and its outcome off the top of his head if he wanted. But he doesn’t like to because it practically makes him physically ill.

“Yeah, it does,” Fromm said. “That’s definitely not where I want it to be, but that’s part of playing football. You know, there’s a lot of things we need to get better at and how can we get better at those things? That’s what we’ve been trying to do the last two weeks. But that’s definitely not where I want to be and I’m ready to go into this football game and try to change that.”

Georgia’s coaches have tried to find a remedy. Freshman George Pickens has proven a great alternative to Cager — he’ll be even better eventually — but the Bulldogs’ options after that have proved inconsistent or unreliable. Junior Demetris Robertson was Georgia’s leading receiver in two games, freshman Dominick Blaylock in one and running back D’Andre Swift in another. None came close to double-figures in receptions or triple-figures in yardage.

Blaylock has since gone down with a season-ending knee injury and redshirt freshman Kearis Jackson has been in and out of the lineup with injuries, including an ankle sprain in the SEC championship, but is now back in the fold. The “merry-go-round of wideouts,” as Kirby Smart said, has been difficult on Fromm.

Fromm’s primary asset as a quarterback is reading defenses and getting rid of the ball quickly. Understandably, he said “finding a rhythm” has been the most difficult challenge the second half of the season.

Phil Snow, Baylor’s defensive coordinator, has to scheme against high-octane offenses and great quarterbacks every week in the Big 12. He said he hasn’t run across a more polished quarterback when it comes self-sufficiency.

“Fromm calls the whole game from the line of scrimmage,” said Snow, a veteran of 43 years in the game. “He even calls the protections, I think. So, we will have our hands full with that.”

That’s what the NFL sees in Fromm as well. They see a 6-2, 225-pound signal-caller who runs a pro-style offense and calls the game from the line of scrimmage.

That’s a valuable commodity at the next level, and at this one as well.

“I'm around Jake every day,” Coley said. “If anything, he's sharper because of the multiples that he's had to deal with, with new guys in the lineup. He's sharper because of it.”

Lately, that hasn’t translated into any standout individual performances from Fromm. He says he’s not worried about that, but he sure would like to finish out his junior season with a ‘W.’

The rap on Georgia continues to be that it doesn’t care about any postseason games that don’t include the playoff. With numerous players expected to miss this one, too, the line favoring the Bulldogs continues to creep down toward even against the well-motivated Bears, playing in this game for the first time since 1957.

“It definitely puts things back into perspective for us and gives us that little chip on our shoulder,” Fromm said. “There’s a lot of guys in our locker room who are ready to have their opportunity and go out and play well.”

Count Fromm among that group.

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