LOS ANGELES — A columnist from an Oklahoma newspaper gave a pop quiz of sorts to Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm Thursday morning ahead of Monday’s Rose Bowl game.
Have you ever heard of Jamelle Holloway? Fromm was stumped.
“Who’s that?” he said.
Fromm was told Holloway in 1985 is the only true freshman starting quarterback to win a national title when he did it for Oklahoma.
“I hope I can add my name to the list,” Fromm said.
Fromm began the season as the backup with a redshirt a possibility to ending it in the College Football Playoff, it has been quite the ride for Fromm.
“If you had told me this season was going to be written this way, I would not have believed you for one minute,” said Fromm, who replaced Jacob Eason in the first quarter of the opener when Eason sustained a knee injury and never gave up the job. “I’m extremely thankful for the way it turned out for me, but, man, this has been an incredible experience and one that I’m just trying to keep improving and keep getting better from. From the guys around me and the coaching staff, they make it incredibly easy for me. I’m ready to see what we can do with it.”
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who coaches the quarterbacks, said just one “little blemish” comes to mind when Fromm looked like a freshman against the speed of Tennessee.
That came early in the game at Tennessee on Sept. 30 in what became a 41-0 Georgia win.
“I don’t know why it happened Tennessee?” Chaney said. “It couldn’t be because there are 105,000 orange people throwing crap at you.”
A fumble against Notre Dame a few weeks earlier was another freshman moment that stuck out to Fromm.
“I had to own up to it. Just kind of come back from it,” he said. “Tennessee, I remember that game, just for whatever reason it was super loud there and just kind of didn’t play as well as I wanted to.”
Fromm – who pitched and clubbed three homers in the Little League World Series at the age of 13 – shrugged off the big stage that awaits on Monday against Oklahoma.
“I think I’ve prepared more than any freshman quarterback or any quarterback out there in the country could have prepared,” he said. “That’s kind of the way I take games. I mean, do I get a little bit anxious before the game? Absolutely. That’s anybody. You’re just ready to play. But for me, I know I’m prepared, so I’m ready to go.”
“He’s had a heck of a growth pattern from the beginning to the end,” Chaney said. “He’s got complete ownership in what we’re trying to get done offensively. He has our trust to change plays and do what we need to do to score enough points to win. Heck, I don’t know. He’s grown at a rate that a lot of freshmen don’t, and it’s been fun to watch him do it. He loves playing the game of football, and that shows up every day on the field in practice and in games.”
Now, Fromm could add a national title to an SEC championship and SEC freshman of the year honors.
“I think he’s been fabulous for a freshman,” Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said. “You try to really dissect a quarterback with what they do and don’t do well. I thought maybe schemed their offense. Obviously, they rely heavily on their run game, so that’s a quarterback’s best friend.. …They put him in good positions to do what he does. We don’t look at him as a game manager. How they set up their game plan week to week, they do an excellent job. They know how to get him in the situations they like. That being said, they don’t want to be 3rd and long all day. They do a good job keeping themselves in manageable situations. And their receivers have really stepped up and helped them as well.”
He leads the SEC and is fourth nationally in passing efficiency and is third in the SEC with 21 touchdowns with five interceptions.
“He has a lot of confidence,” Oklahoma defensive end Ogbonnia Okornkwo said. “He started playing with a lot of confidence at the end of the year. I like him. Towards the end of the year he started making some big throw. He even started even running, getting some yards with his feet.”
Chaney saw midway through spring practice that Fromm had an “uncanny” timing and anticipation.
“The game of football is easy for him,” Chaney said. “What he sees his brain can react to. When you have that kind of talent and his head, he’s never been the reason after the Notre Dame that we kept a package small.”
“The young quarterback has played so well for them,” Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley. “They’ve done a good job with him bringing him along. He’s not just been a manager. You turn on the tape, the guy is making a lot of big time throws, a lot of plays. He seems like he’s a competitive kid that they gravitate around. We know a little bit about that around here. They’ve got three guys that could play for anybody in the country.”
The large Georgia contingent making their way to California includes plenty of family for Fromm.
“I know my family’s bringing a crowd,” the Houston County product said.