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Fromm’s Time Has Come

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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It should go without saying, injuries are never a good thing. However, they can provide for opportunities that may have not otherwise presented themselves.

It should go without saying, injuries are never a good thing. However, they can provide for opportunities that may have not otherwise presented themselves.

I, admittedly, was one of the first to scoff at the idea of Fromm challenging for the starting job, whenever that narrative arose during the offseason.

Here were the scenarios I cited as my reasoning:

A, Eason is the starter, no questions asked, and Fromm, at most, provides a source of motivation to put in the necessary work to make strides in the right direction. Georgia then has a shot, with a quarterback that has a year of experience as a starter, to get back to the SEC Championship for the first time since 2012, where, in a one game scenario, likely against a better opponent, anything can happen.

Or B, the door is left open for Fromm. Eason, who is not guaranteed to make the leap into the game's elite, struggles at some point and allows Fromm to win some playing time. If that happens, Eason is probably irreparably damaged from a mental and psychological standpoint, to the extent that he can no longer be relied upon as a viable option. That leaves Georgia being led by a true freshman, for the second consecutive year, which gives them a clear ceiling around what was seen last year, in the 8-5, 9-4 range.

With the luxury of hindsight, I can see where I allowed, what holds as fair reasoning, to overpower a belief I’ve developed over the past year or so:

In order to be a successful college quarterback, one must be able to improvise and extend plays -- two skills of which Jacob Eason has neither.

As it relates to Jacob Eason, this is less an indictment of him as a player as it is the way in which quarterback prospects, especially those deemed “pocket passers”, are evaluated and rated by the various scouting services. That being the antiquated notion that if someone is tall and can throw a football a long way, then it’s a safe bet to slap five stars on them. (And antiquated is being friendly, as I’m not sure that was ever a particularly viable method.)

This thought process stems, in large part, from what is seen as the prototypical NFL quarterback. The problem is that the NFL and college football are practically different sports.

People point to the Peyton and Eli Manning’s of the world as examples of relatively immobile signal callers that have had great success at both levels, but that was a different era.

Critics of my theory may cite Jameis Winston as a true pocket passer that was elite in the modern game. To that, sure, Winston was never a runner, but I’m not even talking about true dual-threats -- again, simply players that can extend plays when everything goes to hell.

Winston may not be Lamar Jackson, but he is a football savant with such incredible pocket presence and feel for his surroundings that he was able to maneuver a pocket with the nuanced footwork of a seasoned professional veteran. That’s not Eason, either.

No one can be faulted for believing in the highly touted standout from Washington given the rate at which five-stars pan out, although the numbers for quarterbacks are a little less assuring.

At this point it would be easy to, and I’m sure many will, point out that he was probably overrated. However, I have been pretty consistent with that from the beginning.

It’s 2017. It’s time to stop caring about height, weight, and supposed ‘arm talent’ (always a red flag if that's the first thing you hear about a guy in a scouting report), and start to value things that matter: poise, leadership, the ability to rally a huddle, cerebrality, pocket presence, and accuracy, for starters.

Evaluate quarterbacks as they pertain to the college game, not the NFL, when they’re coming out of high school. The reason players who can’t run, like Tom Brady, or the aforementioned Manning’s, are great is because as they age and develop a deeper understanding of the game, the smartest NFL quarterbacks know their respective offenses so well, that the ball, which is faster than any player, is where it needs to be before any defense can do anything about it.

College quarterbacks, simply due to a lack of experience, will, with few exceptions, never be at that point. That’s why, to be successful, they must be able to make plays on their own and improvise when their hot reads are not there.

As far as Fromm, he may never get drafted, may never take a snap in the NFL, but there was never a question in my mind as to who would end up as the better collegiate player. It was always going to be him.

Granted, it’s only one game, and he only threw the ball 15 times. However, that’s exactly what he should be doing.

For whatever reason, Georgia Offensive Coordinator Jim Chaney felt compelled to cater his gameplan towards Eason, as if the thesis of a team with an inexperienced offensive line, unproven receivers, and a wildly inaccurate passer should be spreading it out and trying to sling the ball all over the field.

When Fromm was forced into action, it was as if Chaney was smacked in the head with brick of common sense. All of a sudden, he remembered that Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are pretty good and should probably be the focal points, which, in turn, opened up the airways for Fromm and company, on occasion, to keep Appalachian State honest.

I stand by my initial hesitancy over having a freshman signal caller, for the second consecutive season, at least in the short term, as it usually puts a clear cap on what could have otherwise been a potential division winning-type season, even though the ‘Dawgs may not have a choice at this point. In most cases, a freshman behind center equals losing a couple of games that you shouldn’t (see: versus Vanderbilt & Georgia Tech circa 2016).

Although, given the strength of schedule, or total lack thereof, should Chaney continue this general line of offensive strategy -- thus mitigating Fromm’s potential impact, good or bad -- Kirby Smart’s team may just be able to overcome great historical precedence, on the legs of the running game and defense.

No one ever wants to see a student-athlete suffer an injury. In this instance, though, the forced insertion of Jake Fromm into the starting lineup may be just what the doctor ordered.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP