Opinion: Trusting Fromm experience could be costly for Smart

We’re still fresh off the NCAA College Football National Championship game and Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide empire was upset again by the Clemson Tigers on Monday night.

Yes, you may be shocked to see me writing about college sports instead of National or Georgia politics. It’s been so annoying in the political arena with all the border wall, paper ballots, and government shutdown nonsense so let’s switch it up and cling to college football for at least a few more days.

I shocked many of my friends when I told them that I pulled for Clemson in the National Championship to avenge the Georgia Bulldogs from their agonizing defeat they faced last season to the Crimson Tide in the same game.

Now when you tell people that you pulled for Clemson, most Southeastern Conference ‘SEC’ fans tell you that “you’ve got to pull for your conference” or “how could you pull for a soft conference like that” and my response is consistent, “I’m ready for the Alabama dynasty to die.”

Alabama has been annoyingly dominant in the SEC for over a decade. They’ve crushed SEC competition, something my friends that are big fans of the University of Georgia know all too well. That’s a story for another day.

I’m not here to rag on the Dawgs. In fact, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Dawgs and genuinely want them to do well. I grew up in Atlanta and some of my finest memories were riding around Atlanta in the car doing outdoorsy things in the Fall, listening to legendary Bulldogs announcer Larry Munson with my father on WSB.

Among the many legendary calls he made, one in particular stands out – back in 2001 when the Dawgs upset the Tennessee Volunteers in Knoxville: “We just stepped on their face with a hobnail boot and broke their nose,” Munson remarked. “We just crushed their face.”

I also remember the heartbreaking losses and crushing upsets.

With all the highs and lows of UGA football, I’ve been there with you and rode the emotional roller coaster with my friends and family that are die-hard fans.

Trust me, I remember the Jim Donnan and Mark Richt years.

But when Kirby Smart was hired as head coach back in 2015 the future seemed especially bright for UGA football.

After a decent first season with Kirby Smart, the Dawgs exceeded all expectations and stunned the country when they went to the National Championship in Smart’s second season. I think we all can recall that outcome…

Smart has the makings of a great coach and there’s no doubt that his recruiting and mindset have helped improve UGA’s roster from top to bottom. However, I’m noticing a problem developing in Athens.

Aside from Alabama’s dominance over the Dawgs, not one, but two 5-star quarterbacks that were successfully recruited to Athens have left UGA for other schools during the Smart era.

Just to put this in perspective, the hardest part for these coaches is to get these 18-year-old kids to commit and physically attend your university with all the competition in the SEC.

I know that we’ll all kick ourselves if now former UGA freshman quarterback Justin Fields, who has basically transferred to Ohio State, takes the Buckeyes to the promise land next season.

But the person who was quickly forgotten was quarterback Jacob Eason, who lost his job to current starting quarterback Jake Fromm in 2017 after injuring his left knee in the first quarter of the first game of the season against Appalachian State.

He transferred to the University of Washington and is set to start this Fall for the Huskies.

I’m also reading reports that Clemson’s freshman now National Champion quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the Cartersville, Georgia sensation, heavily considered UGA too. If you haven’t seen him, he may already be ready for the NFL.

That’s a bad trend brewing at UGA and I don’t like the long-term trajectory.

Let me first say that Jake Fromm is a great quarterback and many schools would be glad to have him. But I’ve analyzed a lot of football and I don’t see him leading UGA to a National Championship.

I really hope that I am wrong. Seriously. I want UGA to do well, but Fromm has a problem in big games when UGA is forced to throw to get back into games.

In 2017, the National Championship year, he proved that he couldn’t throw his way back into a contested road game at Jordan-Hare Stadium at Auburn.

He had horrific numbers in the National Championship game against Bama throwing 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, going 16 for 32 passing.

And in 2018, the LSU blowout in Death Valley will forever haunt Dawgs fans. Why? Because, if the Dawgs had won that game, the SEC Championship against Alabama would not have mattered for either team. Both teams would have been seeded for the College Football Playoff and we all know what happened.

Nonetheless, I don’t blame Fromm for the recent SEC Championship loss, because Coach Smart’s 4th and long fake punt in the 4th quarter will loom larger than any players performance in that game.

For UGA’s program to reach that elite tier with the Alabamas, Clemsons, Ohio States, and Notre Dames of the world, Coach Smart must take some chances and put the best players in their positions even if it means disrupting the politics of the team.

UGA has benefitted from a relatively weak SEC East over the past 3 years and as we all know, the trends will change, and Dawgs fans should be cautious about improving schools like Kentucky and Florida.

It’s not easy to win a National Championship, but the great recruits are here and UGA has a real chance to contend for the next couple of years. Now, Smart needs to make it his top priority to keep these 5-star players flocking to Athens.

Jared Yamamoto is a Doctrinaire and Producer of The Von Haessler Doctrine radio show heard daily from 9-Noon on News 95.5 and AM 750 in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Email jared.yamamoto@coxinc.com 

Twitter: @jaredyamamoto 

Instagram: @jaredyamamoto

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