Georgia’s quarterback rotation adds intrigue

Jake Fromm was born July 30, 1998. Fromm's first moment at the national level came in the 2011 Little League World Series. Fromm led Houston County High to the third round of the state football playoffs as a senior. A 4-star recruit, Fromm committed to Alabama before changing his mind and later signing with Georgia. Fromm's college debut came as a freshman, on Sept. 2, 2017 against Appalachian State, after starting QB Jacob Eason was injured. Fromm's first start for UGA came at Notre Dame, directing the B

There has been little suspense in Georgia’s football season so far, what with an average margin of victory of 30.2 points and a double-digit halftime lead in every game. The oddsmakers envision more of the same this week, making the Bulldogs a 26-point favorite over Vanderbilt.

But at least one element of suspense has entered this UGA season: an unpredictable quarterback rotation.

Sophomore Jake Fromm remains the starter and on pace to surpass the UGA and SEC single-season pass-completion percentage record. But freshman Justin Fields, much more of a running threat, also was incorporated prominently into the offense in Saturday’s win over Tennessee, revealing the intriguing potential of a juggling act at the quarterback position.

“I couldn’t imagine having to prepare for both of those guys,” Georgia tailback Elijah Holyfield said this week, referring to the task of opposing defenses. “I’m glad it’s not my job.”

Georgia coach Kirby Smart is offering no hints about how the situation will unfold in the weeks ahead, sticking to his stance that “there is no plan” other than to deploy the quarterbacks as warranted by game situations and opposing defenses. But last week’s game showed some fascinating possibilities, even though Fields was on the field for only 14 of the Bulldogs’ 74 offensive plays.

On Georgia’s opening drive of the second half, for example, Fromm played the first nine snaps, completing four of four passes and moving the Bulldogs to the Tennessee 12-yard line. Then Fields entered on the final play of the drive and ran the ball into the end zone.

And on a 13-play touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, Georgia went back and forth, back and forth, on quarterbacks – from Fromm to Fields to Fromm to Fields to Fromm.

For the game, Fromm completed 16 of 22 passes for 185 yards and no touchdowns, maintaining his season’s pass-completion percentage of 72.5. Fields threw only two passes, completing one, but he ran five times for 45 yards and two touchdowns.

Fields has played in all five games this season, and he played more meaningful snaps against Tennessee than he had previously. One week earlier, he played just two snaps against Missouri. As for how much he’ll be used Saturday night against Vanderbilt at Sanford Stadium, or next week at LSU, stay tuned.

Defensive tackle Michael Barnett compared the quarterback equation with Georgia’s tailback tandem last season of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.

“You know, fire and ice or thunder and lightning,” Barnett said. “You never know when you have a gunslinger type or a mobile quarterback back there.”

Fields’ mobility can help the running game beyond his own carries, offensive tackle Andrew Thomas noted.

“The defense, they always have to key on him, so they can’t just key on the running back,” Thomas said.

“He opens up a little different dynamic for the team,” Holyfield said. “It’s something different that the defense has to adjust to. Playing Jake and then Justin comes in, I’m sure the defense has to be like, ‘Oh, jeez.’ They have different skill sets, but they both help our team, so it all works out.”

The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Fromm, who is 17-2 as Georgia’s starter, helped lead the Bulldogs to the national championship game last season. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Fields was rated the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback prospect as a senior at Harrison High in Kennesaw last season.

Fields isn’t available for interviews, per Smart’s rule for freshmen. Fromm expressed no reservations about the quarterback rotation after last week’s game.

“That was just kind of the flow of the game,” Fromm said. “That’s up to coach Smart. You just get the play and go out and try to execute it.”

Georgia is averaging 43.2 points per game this season, yet there’s a sense the offense hasn’t reached its full potential.

“I think right now we’re still trying to find our identity on the offensive side of the ball,” Thomas said.  That identity, he said, should be “a balanced offense that is very physical and can run the ball at will.”

Whatever happens at quarterback, Smart doesn’t anticipate any tension.

“When you talk about Jake Fromm and Justin Fields, you’re talking about two huge Georgia fans that love Georgia and love the University of Georgia,” Smart said. “They want what’s best for the team.

“No. 1, they want to win. No. 2, they want to do well. But when you’re in a team format, sometimes doing well may mean the combination of those two guys.”