Jake Fromm to be redshirted?
After the 2017 G-Day game Saturday at sun-kissed Sanford Stadium, that idea seems to be a remote possibility.
Fromm, the early freshman enrollee from Houston County, passed for 277 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-23 attempts to lead the Red team to a 25-22 win over the Black team before an announced crowd of 66, 133. Sure, Fromm was throwing against Georgia’s second-team defense but, also, he was throwing to backup receivers on the Reds and over the entire four quarters, showed outstanding poise in the pocket while connecting on a 42-yard scoring strike to fellow freshman J.J. Holloman and a 70-yard touchdown bomb to sophomore Tyler Simmons with only 3:48 left in the game.
As it was, the Reds pulled out the see-saw game on Rodrigo Blankenship’s 28-yard field goal with but 1:03 left in the fourth quarter.
Guiding the Bulldogs’ first-team offense of the black team, incumbent quarterback Jacob Eason started the contest on a shaky note, completing just eight-of-21 passes in the first half, but came alive in the second half – especially with the deep passing game – to finish the afternoon with 311 yards and also two touchdown tosses … a 33-yard strike to Jayson Stanley and a 36-yard scoring toss to sophomore tight end Charlie Woerner, which enabled the Blacks to knot the game at 22-22 with 2:31 remaining before Fromm then led the Red offense down the field in the two-minute drill to set the stage for Blankenship’s winning kick. Handling the kicking for both teams, Blankenship’s game-clinching field goal atoned for the extra point kick he had missed minutes earlier for the Blacks, keeping the game tied at 22.
With Eason and Fromm airing it out for 588 yards between them, the running game was almost non-existent for Georgia on Saturday. Starting tailback Nick Chubb didn’t carry the ball a single time and his rising senior co-hart, Sony Michel, had only one carry for four yards.
And head coach Kirby Smart said that was the game plan coming into this intrasquad scrimmage, which capped 15 days of spring practice for the Bulldogs.
“Obviously, we didn’t run the ball like you want to,” said Smart, “but to be honest with you, it wasn’t part of the game plan. We wanted to see if we could throw the ball some, move the ball around. We would have like to run it better with the No. 1 offense, which we didn’t do, which we have to improve on. But there were some challenges.
“We limited the coordinators, we limited the offense with those opportunities,” Smart said. “But the best thing that happened was that you got an opportunity to see quarterbacks try to work the 2-minute drill. So many of our games come down to critical situations, where it’s using timeouts, opportunities to win the game. That excited me, and I thought the defense really played hard. Didn’t always tackle well and got some balls thrown over our heads, but they really competed and challenged each other more than maybe we had done earlier in the spring. So overall, I was pleased with the day, excited about the growth of our team. I really saw some players getting better throughout the entire spring.’’
With Chubb and Michel mostly watching from the sidelines, it remained for redshirt freshman walk-on Prather Hudson to lead both teams in rushing with 45 yards on seven carries. Sophomore Elijah Holyfield ran for 41 yards on 15 carries for the winning Red team while sophomore Brian Herrien, starting tailback for the No. 1 offense of the Black team, could total just 18 net yards in 11 trips as the Blacks finished with a minus-two yards rushing on 20 attempts. The Reds did only slightly better, running for 67 yards on 25 carries.
With the ball going in the air throughout the afternoon, Georgia’s receivers put up some big numbers.
Teaming with Eason on the black team, starting junior wideout Terry Godwin snared five balls for 130 yards including a long gain of 40 yards and senior Javon Wims followed with four receptions for 96 yards including a 47-yard catch from Eason. For the Reds, sophomore Tyler Simmons pulled in five passes from Fromm for 114 yards including the 70-yard TD bomb, freshman Holloman had three catches for 77 yards including his 42-yard scoring grab and sophomore Mecole Hardman, making the move to wide receiver well, also pulled in three passes.
“Overall, I thought our receivers ran some good routes,” said Eason. “There were a couple of throws I’d like to take back but overall I think we had a good beneficial experience out there. Jake pushed me in every way this spring,” said Eason, speaking of Fromm who as a freshman wasn’t made available for post-game interviews. “He pushed me in the film room and on the field. He’s a good kid and a quick learner and he’s always going to be there to push me, and I’m always going to be there to push him. That’s how our relationship works; we respect each other and are good friends off the field. I really appreciate him being there and I’m sure he appreciates me being there for him.”
Chubb, who had an excellent spring practice and more resembled the All-American running back he was as a freshman in 2014, said the Bulldogs really improved as a team over the course of the 15 days of workouts.
“I thought we played together as a team really well all spring,” said Chubb. “We communicated well. To the young guys, the message is to hang in there. It will be hard at first, but you should always play your hardest. You’re gonna mess up, but you’ll get your chance. (On the quarterback competition) I think they both came out today, played hard and competed and that’s all we ask. You never know what will happen. Jacob was the quarterback last year, but if Jake comes back in the fall and plays well I think it will be open for either one of them”
“I didn’t expect anything other than a very intense hard-fought game between the two teams,” offered rising senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter. “Throughout the whole spring we’ve been competing with each other, battling going hard at each other. We respect each other for it because we get each other better and that’s the whole goal of spring ball.”
“We had a pretty good spring,” said junior defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter. “Everyone came out and did what they needed to do, we had a lot of guys working really hard. We really had some consistency this spring so that’s always good to see moving toward the season. working together as a unit. I feel like I played well today and so did all of my teammates,” said Ledbetter. “We’re one unit and that’s what we stressed this spring, playing as a unit and clicking on all cylinders and I feel like we executed today and did a really good job of that.”
Defensively, highly-touted incoming freshman Richard LeCounte had a game-high nine tackles from his safety spot for the Black team while junior inside linebacker Juwan Taylor followed with eight total stops. D’Andre Walker showed five tackles including two QB sacks. For the winning Red squad, senior linebacker Reggie Carter rendered eight tackles and sophomore transfer safety J.R. Reed acquitted himself well with six tackles. Lorenzo Carter totaled five stops and had a quarterback sack, as did his Red teammates Ledbetter, Justin Young, Natrez Patrick and Davin Bellamy.
The Bulldogs’ kicking game in the spring contest was a mixed bag. As mentioned, Blankenship kicked for both teams and while he made four field goals, including the game-winner, he also misfired from 49 and 40 yards out as well as missing that crucial PAT kick near game’s end. Booting a total of eight kickoffs, he booted three into the end zone for touchbacks and averaged 65.0 yards per kick. Punting-wise, Cameron Nizialek, the graduate transfer from Columbia University, averaged 40.5 yards on two punts for the Red team and 36.5 yards on also two kicks for the Black squad.
Next time these players take the field in Sanford Stadium, there will be no Red and Black teams … only the Georgia Bulldogs when they come together collectively on Sept. 2 to open the 2017 season against the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
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