Old school football philosophy suggests that if you’re regularly using two quarterbacks, you probably aren’t very happy with either. But the current college football season is quickly becoming the year of the two-quarterback system, and Georgia has hopped on board.
No. 1 Alabama has seen success with both Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts getting playing time and No. 4 Clemson briefly did the same with Kelly Bryant and freshman Trevor Lawrence, before Bryant announced his intentions to transfer. Meanwhile, the No. 2 Bulldogs have trotted out a combination of Jake Fromm and newcomer Justin Fields over their first five games, garnering generally positive results.
Fromm has completed more than 72 percent of his passes while tossing nine touchdowns to just two interceptions. Not to be outdone, Field has completed almost 79 percent of his attempts — albeit on a much smaller sample size — for two touchdowns and no picks. Fields has also rushed for 115 yards and three scores.
“I think the most important thing is that each quarterback is developing and getting better,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said of the quarterbacks. “People forget that Jake Fromm is a sophomore. And he’s played in a lot of football games, got a lot of experience with the extra games we were able to play last year, but both of these guys are developing. They need work, and we get them tons of reps in practice. And I think that’s the most important thing, is that we grow.”
Smart remained coy regarding how much usage each quarterback would get going forward, as he has throughout the season.
And while the safe bet might be to stick with heavy dosages of the more battle-tested Fromm as Georgia gets deeper into its SEC schedule, Smart and members of the team admitted that it’s hard to ignore the upside Fields brings to the table.
“He opens up a different dynamic for the team with him being able to run the ball so well,” running back Elijah Holyfield said. “So it’s really exciting to watch him come in.”
Holyfield said that Fields has an uncanny ability to get into the end zone on the ground in the red zone, and typically if there is only one defender between him and the goal line, Fields will win the matchup. That, coupled with the freshman quarterback’s arm strength and accuracy is sure to give opposing defenses headaches according to Holyfield.
“It’s something different that the defense has to adjust to,” he said. “So I’m sure that playing Jake (Fromm) and then Justin (Fields) comes in, I’m sure the defense has to be like, ‘Oh, jeez.’”
Holyfield’s theory is one that Georgia defensive tackle Michael Barnett can vouch for based on personal experience.
It hasn’t taken long for the young quarterback to make an impression on Barnett on the practice field.
“I was tired of running after (Fields) in practice,” Barnett said. “He’ll pass the ball one play, next thing you know, he doesn’t see something and he’ll take off running.”
So who will be the lead guy going forward?
According to Smart, not even Georgia’s coaches can be entirely sure.
“If you sit here and think we know exactly when Justin’s going to go in or when Jake’s going to go in going into the game … the game doesn’t work like that,” Smart said. “It just doesn’t work like that.”
Smart added that certain defensive fronts or pressures would dictate which quarterback would be in the game.
As for the quarterbacks themselves, Smart said he has been overall pleased with what he’s seen from both players to this point in the year. And while it may not be the most conventional plan, it’s looking more and more like the Bulldogs will continue to use both Fromm and Fields for the foreseeable future.
“What do great competitors want?” Smart said. “Number one, they want to win. Number two, they want to do well. But when you’re in a team format, sometimes doing well may mean a combination of those two guys.”