Classic City Quarterback Quandary
HAN VANCE on Georgia football: Here we go! I have my birthdays in late August, then it’s ALWAYS college football season, Between the Hedges summer heat.
Not always. Georgia opens at new head coach Sam Pittman’s Arkansas on 9/26, surely the latest start to a Dawgs season in the modern-at-all era. Wondering what the earliest start to a season is? Well, I’ll put it this way, the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry was first played on Feb 20th, 1892 in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, and it was Georgia’s second game (that year and ever). Things change over time. They just do.
With way too much time to talk and think until then for us all, interceptions are the subject I’ll discuss today, as they relate to the quarterback battle ongoing in Athens, Ga.
Jake Fromm leaves Athens as the school’s completion percentage record holder, having fronted teams that won 13, 11 and 12, and the fanbase – that’s one thing super slow to change, I guess – expects improvement.
Just re-watched it: Jake threw two picks in the SECCG, where he was roughed up regularly, forced into playing without his best runner (Swift was just a decoy), best receiver (Cager was out for the year), second best receiver sitting the first half for suspension (Pickens was immature), third best receiver injured badly during the game (Blaylock) and with Swift’s assumed replacement for this year (White) getting one yard per rushing attempt. Several passes were dropped and other obvious errors made, including by his fourth best receiver (D-Rob) and by then-senior Tyler Simmons who never broke out as a strong receiver for UGA. Was Jake forcing it? Yeah, he had no choice. Before that, in the worst late game and overtime head coaching dual I’ve seen in years, both sides seeming to want to lose with their ill thought out in-game decisions to the point that the TV analysts were guffawing left and right, he threw three picks to one tall, excellent defensive back. That was the Chickens choke Canines catastrophe. It ultimately cost Kirby Smart an at-large entry into the College Football Playoff. Two of those picks were not considered Fromm’s fault by the coaching staff, by the way.
Jake threw a grand total of one other pick all season. He had six picks on the year, overcoming predictable 3rd down play calling in that stat.
JT Daniels played one great half of football as a starter last season, the opener for (the real) USC out West, got hurt, then lost his starting spot. Quite like our Eason-to-Fromm situation, he won the start, he was not a medical redshirt, he did lose his starting job to injury. As a true frosh, the five star threw 11 picks and had 10 fumbles, losing less than half of them but still, way way too far from good ball security. How he gained immediate hardship eligibility he won’t say. I know for fact how Justin Fields gained his at Ohio State; it spoke poorly of lingering Old South realities at UGA. Don’t be a racist.
Stetson Bennett IV was log jammed down the depth chart during the Eason-Fromm-Fields five star miniseries, which was indisputably soundly dominated by Fromm. Resultant, Bennett transferred out to get playing time, started a year, did well save for throwing too many interceptions. Then, he actually came back to be Fromm’s backup last season. Fromm played through the pain when it came – it always comes in football – and as the least sacked starter in the SEC last year, playing behind an offensive line with three high 2020 NFL draft picks including two first round tackles, he was unusually well-protected. Bennett went from 2017 scout team standout sensation, nicknamed the Mailman, and raved about by current Colorado coach Mel Tucker, to an INT-slinging but otherwise solid starter elsewhere in 2018, to a little-used backup in 2019, as yet another full decade closed without Georgia winning another national championship (’42-split…wait around 40 years…’80-unanimous). He has great touch – possibly superior to any QB in camp – but lacks some of the sheer physicality of all the other candidates. He isn’t big enough and is a former walk-on battling for reps, in harsh reality.
Before I talk about your anointed savior in any detail, I want to talk a bit more about unrealistic expectations thrust upon these kids by a frothing fanbase and my annual red flags. Counting on Newman to win the national championship and the Heisman is simply not fair to the kid, point blank. He ain’t no Sinkwich, y’all. …He isn’t (sudden political party pundit) Herschel.
Heck, he may not even have multiple personality disorder. He probably can’t bobsled, run track, fight mixed martial arts. I posit, he’s a good, not great, but very good athlete, that you never heard of for a reason before he chose UGA…and was then proclaimed the greatest athlete ever and a clear improvement to a Fromm who beat out a 50 touchdown a season proven guy named Justin Fields. A wishful Newman compared himself to Cam Newton recently in an interview.
Party politics have absolutely no place in American college football. Never have in 151 years, and never will. Our relatively ancient sport is a respite from the polarity of mudslinging and side-taking B.S. And, if you don’t see that, YOU are the REAL problem with this country.
Interceptions are a potential season-dooming red flag I see. Last year I called an immature receiving core a red flag, at this time, and was right. Two years ago, I was worried about how Kirby clenched too tightly in tough spots and was proven right at LSU and in the SECCG. Three years ago, I thought a UGA coming off five losses could win it all with almost-all late Mark Richt era recruits matured. I saw only Kirby’s continued inexperience and Jim Chaney’s unwillingness to modify game plans mid-stream, as needed in big moments, as red flags. Sadly, I was right. Kirby’s first year, I called his laser-like focus on recruiting and on retooling a defense which was the best aspect of the team when he arrived (under Jeremy Pruitt) a red flag preventing winning right away. Richt’s last year, my preseason red flag was no Mike Bobo. This is the kind of Nostra-HANish right I don’t wish for but see.
This year my red flag is interceptions. Interceptions could be the reason you don’t get that 40-year monkey off your backs, fans.
New line. New QB. New system. New play verbiage. No proven running game. Guys that struggled with throwing picks when they did start. I was quite quick to point out, before it seeped into the other national pundits consciousness, that having a starting QB returning to an established system with a gelled offensive line and proven playmakers aplenty, is better this year than any, ever. Why? No spring football, and so few chances to grow up before big bullets fly. SEC only, too.
Before the season, Georgia fans declared Wake Forest grad transfer Jamie Newman the Heisman. After never seeing him play. He threw 11 picks last year at Wake Forest against a weak ACC schedule.