Jake Fromm cherishes a solid performance when he sees one. He skipped off Neyland Stadium turf to see red-clad fans parading the tunnel, and greeted them with a loud clap. He celebrated the win a few minutes later with a celebratory farewell to Tennessee as he exited postgame interviews.
“Rocky Top, you’ll always be home sweet home to me,” Fromm sang, pumping his fist for emphasis. He continued with numerous high-pitched screams while re-entering the team locker room. “Good ol’ Rocky Top, woo! Rocky Top Tennessee!”
He beamed with pride over his team’s performance as Georgia (5-0, 2-0 SEC) notched a 43-14 victory in an environment that was temporarily raucous. The Bulldogs’ quarterback probably had a thought or two about a personal performance race through his head, too.
The numbers are nothing to scoff at: 288 yards on 24 of 29 passing with touchdown passes to Lawrence Cager and freshman George Pickens. Fromm recorded another clean performance, too, and has yet to throw an interception this season. His return to Knoxville was much more flashy than his last — 84 passing yards on seven completions as a freshman.
Fromm has allowed his run game to do most of the work through the first four games this season. His passing efficiency has been predicated on numerous screen-type passes or intermediate routes which allow his playmakers to record yards after catch. Due to a tightly-contested first half, Saturday’s game offered a unique opportunity for Fromm. He had chances to spread out his passing attack and find downfield targets.
“He’s very confident, especially when he plays these type of games,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “That’s similar to playing our defense. He sees that every day. He’s very intelligent.”
A lot of criticism toward Fromm is a so-called inability to accurately throw deep passes, but he dispelled that chatter against the Volunteers. Keep in mind, this is the guy who analyzes hunting video with teammate Ben Cleveland to find ways to improve while shooting deer in the tree stand. The guy who brought a competitive edge to a birthday cornhole tournament before the preseason began. And the guy who watches film of NFL greats Drew Brees and Tom Brady with frustration if he doesn’t emulate the intricacies of their success.
His teammates call him a genius, and his coaches never relinquish an opportunity to voice appreciation for his unique qualities — ones that are a step farther than on-field statistics.
Fromm translated all of his work into the primetime lights. He looked the part of a quarterback with first-round NFL draft prospects. He completed passes to nine different receivers, and found running back D’Andre Swift on a deep route when he wasn’t on his list of progressions. That unselfish distribution came intertwined with superior ball placement to allow for some impressive snags.
“You just know when you’re running a route, no matter how I run it, he’s going to put you in the best spot to make a play,” Cager said. “We’re just blessed to have him.”
Fromm’s teammates see similar performances on a daily basis in practice. His in-game displays are usually solid, too, but a chance to pick apart Tennessee’s secondary came with extra oomph. He started on a blazing 7 of 7 streak for 117 yards. Wide receiver Demetris Robertson showed his hamstring was OK with a 26-yard scurry down the sideline to setup the opening touchdown — Georgia’s fourth through five opening possessions, no less. Swift became a legitimate receiving threat with a 44-yard snag.
Through those flashy performances, the consistency of Cager, the graduate transfer from Miami, came through again. He doesn’t see himself as a go-to target, but Fromm’s tendencies show him to be one. Fromm had Javon Wims as his favorite in 2017, Jeremiah Holloman in 2018 and Cager has written that next chapter with 185 yards and three touchdowns.
He’s emerged in two consecutive weeks after recording 46 yards and a touchdown against the Volunteers. Cager nearly added a 25-yard tip-toeing grab to those totals, but it was ruled incomplete upon review.
“That’s the dream of a receiver to know they’re trusting me,” Cager said. “It’s tough to gain that, but it’s what you strive for.”
Whether it be Cager or the other eight targets who allowed Fromm to shine, Georgia’s quarterback had a “Remember me?” moment in Neyland Stadium.
He clapped, smiled and trash talked. A performance like that warranted Fromm to unleash a different side to his personality.
“I wanted to go out and have fun tonight,” Fromm said. “I think the guys around me made that easy. We were making a lot of plays and it was fun.”