Georgia has had two consecutive years of quarterback competitions. While the incumbent started 14 of 15 games last season, this offseason could very well mark the third year in a row a battle takes place.
Jake Fromm is returning after a stellar freshman season that saw him complete 62.2 percent of his throws for 2,615 yards, 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. For most teams, that kind of production en route to an appearance in the national championship game would make a quarterback safe.
But with the Bulldogs adding five-star quarterback Justin Fields to the mix in January, a legitimate quarterback competition isn’t out of the question. If anything, Fromm, as well as his teammates, are aware that anyone can be replaced, no matter how things went during a previous season.
“No one is here safe,” receiver Terry Godwin said. “You always have to battle every day to save your spot. To give Jake Fromm that extra push is a challenge. Everyone has to fight.”
Fields offers a different dynamic than what Georgia has been used to in past seasons. In addition to his arm strength, Fields has the ability to take off on either designed runs or scramble situations. This ability could lend Georgia to creating a package for Fields even if Fromm holds on to his starting spot.
But Fields’ arm has been what has impressed teammates so far. While he ran a lot in high school – 920 rushing yards in seven games a senior – he displayed his arm strength during some seven-on-seven workouts during the winter.
“He’s got a cannon,” tight end Isaac Nauta said. “He’s a big physical kid. There’s a lot of competition at a lot of positions. He’s a really good kid, too. I like the way he acts and his demeanor. He doesn’t have too big of a head and is level-headed. Coming into a place like this, that’s the way you got to be.”
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart has made it a point to keep players on their toes with the threat of competition. While it would be highly unlikely for center Lamont Gaillard to lose his starting position, Smart went out of his way to say he isn’t a lock if someone behind him plays better. Smart said the same thing about left guard Kendall Baker.
The idea is to prevent his players from becoming complacent during practice, and that equally applies to the quarterback position.
“That's what this program is built on,” Smart said. “It's built on you go out every day to perform to the best of your ability. And if I don't think, or the staff doesn't think, you're performing to the best of your ability, then we call you out, we call you in and tell you you've got to do better. I think every kid has kind of embraced that. Through the leaders we had last year, they understood if I don't perform there is another guy behind me that's going to push me. That's what we want. We want it to be that way.”
Fromm was in Fields’ position a year ago, coming in as a freshman and playing behind a quarterback who had a year of experience. But Fromm prepared well for the opportunity to enter a game and received a chance early with former Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason, who has since transferred to Washington, spraining his knee in the opener against Appalachian State.
Fromm would seemingly know the same could happen to him if Fields seizes any kind of opportunity, through injury or not. That is something that has reverberated through the entire team.
“Anybody can lose their job,” Nauta said. “If you don’t perform, if you don’t do what you’re supposed to do – these coaches are going to put the people out on the field they feel is going to help us best win. Jake’s a great leader and a great quarterback, and he led us to a national championship (game) his freshman year. We’ll see.”