Jake Fromm's productive G-Day adds spice to Georgia quarterback race

Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm greets fans before last Saturday's G-Day spring game inside Sanford Stadium.

Quarterback competitions were few and far between during Mark Richt's 15 seasons as Georgia's football coach.

Aaron Murray and David Greene were four-year starters under Richt and rank 1-2 among the Southeastern Conference's passing leaders in career yardage, and Matthew Stafford was a three-year starter who played not long after Greene and not long before Murray.

There have been tight-knit battles each of the past two seasons, with Greyson Lambert beating out Brice Ramsey in Richt's final year and Jacob Eason beating out Lambert a year ago in Kirby Smart's debut season. Senior tailback Nick Chubb believes he is headed to a third straight August camp with a starting quarterback still to be determined.

"I think so, because you never know what will happen," Chubb said in a news conference after Saturday's G-Day spring game. "Jacob Eason was the quarterback last year, but if Jake Fromm comes out and plays well, I think it will be open."

While Greene, Stafford and Murray quickly became the understood starters after their freshman seasons, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound Eason has a bit more of a challenge due to the 6-2, 225-pound Fromm, who enrolled in January out of Houston County High in Warner Robins, Ga. Fromm completed 14 of 23 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns for the second-team offense against the second-team defense at G-Day, including a 7-of-10, 100-yard first half that contained a 42-yard scoring strike to fellow newcomer Jeremiah Holloman.

Eason, meanwhile, struggled with the starting offense in the first half, completing just 8 of 21 passes for 133 yards with an interception against the starting defense.

"Jake had really good composure and did a good job of going through the right reads and hitting his guys," Eason said Saturday. "If you're going to be good, it's got to come from yourself, but I think Jake did a good job of coming in and pushing me. He pushes me and I push him, and our off-the-field relationship has grown because of that.

"We're tight. We came in the same way, being highly regarded."

Eason, who beat out Lambert after last season's opening win over North Carolina, completed 204 of 370 passes (55.1 percent) as a freshman for 2,430 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He had a four-game stretch against conference foes when he wasn't picked off, but his efficiency rating for the season ranked just 13th in the league.

His efficiency rating for the first half of G-Day was even worse, but Eason regrouped somewhat to finish 16-of-36 for 311 yards with two second-half touchdowns.

"When the defense knows you're throwing the ball, you're going to throw it at a lesser percentage," Smart said Saturday, referencing an offense with one combined carry from Chubb and Sony Michel. "Jacob understands our offense better now. He knows the checks. He knows where to go with the ball. He understands when to put us in the right play, and that part I'm pleased with.

"You can't judge him based on today."

When asked about Fromm's performance, Smart said he still gets that "deer in the headlights look" when a defender gets free in the pocket, but he didn't hide his excitement.

"Jake is a great competitor," Smart said. "He's in the huddle and has great spirit. I had to jump him in the second scrimmage because he threw a touchdown pass and started yelling at the defensive end. I told him that we don't do that here, but I don't want to take the fire out of the kid.

"He gets juiced in competition, but he's got to control the emotions."

Georgia will enter August camp with just two scholarship quarterbacks, though each was a top-50 national prospect in his respective year. Smart believes competition at every position is healthy, so why would quarterback be any different?

Eason obviously has taken the challenge, telling reporters after G-Day that he would go home to Washington and then "get back here as soon as possible."

"I think it's great," junior receiver Terry Godwin said. "You always have someone pushing each other, whether it's Jake pushing Jacob or Jacob pushing Jake. They are always increasing each other's level."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.