Georgia will face Florida quarterback Kyle Trask on Saturday in Jacksonville and is almost certain to see his backup, Emory Jones, who is regularly deployed by the Gators. They will represent the fourth and fifth quarterbacks Florida has used against the Bulldogs in a period of three seasons.
As for this season, Trask and Jones will represent the 13th and 14th quarterbacks Georgia has defended. Every opponent but one – Notre Dame and Ian Book – has had to utilize at least two quarterbacks in games against Georgia. That number goes up when counting running backs or receivers that take an occasional snap in wildcat formations.
Conversely, the Gators plan to see only one quarterback Saturday in Jacksonville. It’s the same one every opponent sees every week, the ever-resilient, ever-present Jake Fromm.
A 6-foot-2, 220-pound junior, Fromm will start his 36th consecutive game for the No. 8 Bulldogs (6-1, 3-1 SEC) when they meet No. 6 Florida (7-1, 4-1) at TIAA Bank Field (3:30 p.m., CBS). Including his first game as a freshman in 2017, in which he relieved an injured Jacob Eason during the third series of the season opener, Fromm has been at the offensive controls for Georgia in 37 consecutive games, or every one of his college career.
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart didn’t like being reminded of that this week.
“I hope you're not jinxing us,” Smart quipped.
Whatever criticisms might be out there about Fromm’s play – and there are some – there is no denying that the Bulldogs’ quarterback is tough and resourceful. What's more, he’s successful. Georgia is 31-6 with Fromm calling the signals.
That Fromm has managed to stay upright and present for virtually every significant play spanning three seasons is what makes him special, especially when placed in the context of what’s going on throughout the SEC.
The reason Georgia has faced so many quarterbacks is so many quarterbacks have gone down. Trask, who will start for the Gators on Saturday, was a career backup before Feleipe Franks was lost in the third game against Kentucky to a fracture/dislocation of his ankle. So Florida has deployed two quarterbacks since.
The Bulldogs faced converted wide receiver Lynn Bowden when Kentucky came to town because Terry Wilson and Sawyer Wilson had sustained injuries and couldn't play. In the previous game, South Carolina’s Ryan Hilinski, who had replaced injured starter Jake Bentley, went out with a knee injury against Georgia before that. That brought in third-stringer Dakereon Joyner.
So, if Jones comes in for the Gators on Saturday, the Bulldogs will have played the third-string quarterback of three teams this season. They saw at least two in four other games.
Meanwhile, Georgia backup Stetson Bennett has come in at garbage time of three blowout games this season.
“He does a good job of protecting himself,” Smart said of Fromm, who hasn’t been made available for interviews in advance of Saturday’s top-10 matchup. “... And I think our O-line does a good job of pass protection.”
That it does. Fromm has been sacked only four times this season, and three of those came in the loss to South Carolina. The other sack came when a Murray State blitzer came free in Week 2. Otherwise, Fromm has been emerging from games with a mostly clean uniform.
But as much as pass protection has helped Fromm, it’s also about the offense Georgia operates. Even though much of the offense is zone-read based, Fromm rarely keeps the football on such plays.
Fromm has 17 carries for 25 yards on the season, which includes the four sacks for minus-20 yards. Otherwise, that’s 13 runs for 45 yards.
Compared with Saturday’s opponent, Trask, Jones and Franks have combined to rush 72 times for 153 yards this season. Fromm has only 113 rushing attempts in three years.
“A lot of guys are getting hit,” Smart said. “A lot of different rushes, (a lot of) athletes. There's just so much going on with college football … (where) quarterbacks are getting hit more. Jake is probably a little more experienced at, ‘OK, I'm going to protect myself in this situation.'”
Smart said Fromm does that as much with his pass-protection reads as anything. He generally knows where pressure will be coming from. Therefore, he knows where to go with the football and how much time has has to get rid of it.
That will be especially helpful Saturday as the Bulldogs face Florida’s blitz-happy defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. Grantham, who was defensive coordinator at Georgia from 2010-13, has a reputation for dialing up dozens of blitzes.
It serves Grantham well most of the time, but also has given birth to the phrase “Third-and-Grantham.” As Georgia fans can attest, his defenses often have gotten burned on third down.
Case in point: Fromm was 8-of-14 on third down against Grantham’s group last year in Jacksonville. Three of those conversions resulted in touchdowns.
Fromm was 17-of-24 passing for 240 yards in the 36-17 win. Including the Bulldogs’ 42-7 win in 2017, Fromm is 21-of-31 for 341 yards and four touchdowns against the Gators. He threw one interception in 2017.
Florida coach Dan Mullen, who has a reputation for developing quarterbacks, appreciates what Fromm does for the Bulldogs.
“He does a great job,” Mullen said. “He’s a really smart player, gets them into the right plays, can check and manage what’s going on. … They don’t do a whole lot of quarterback run game with him, but he’s athletic when he starts to scramble and can make things happen.”
As the season has continued, Florida increasingly has stuck with Trask. And while he keeps the ball more than Fromm, the Gators tend to bring in Jones for any quarterback run game they want to show.
Trask is much more of a ball distributor, which has helped an offense whose strength is an eight-deep receiver corps led by 6-foot-6 tight end Kyle Pitts (35-391-4) and 6-2 wideout Van Jefferson (27-331-3).
“He’s definitely not a backup type of guy,” senior safety J.R. Reed said of Trask. “He’s a big player and can play strong. He’s not as athletic as Florida’s previous quarterback, but he’s a great player. You can see that he knows how to run the offense and can spread the ball around.”
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