football Edit

Let the QB debate continue

Justin Fields and Jake Fromm will no doubt be the main story line all of fall camp.
Justin Fields and Jake Fromm will no doubt be the main story line all of fall camp. (Radi Nabulsi)

The words “Justin Fields” had barely left of a reporter’s mouth. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney jumped in with his response before the question was complete.

Yes, it seems like Fields’ name is on the tip of a lot of tongues these days, particularly fans wondering if the precocious former five-star can actually beat out Jake Fromm and become Georgia’s starting quarterback.

“We all know how polarizing the quarterback position can be. Everybody wants to know about that spot. In my particular role, I worry about everybody,” Chaney said. “Every good football player we have, you try to find ways to get them on the field and utilize them. Right now, Justin’s battling for the quarterback spot, as is Jamaree Salyer at the guard spot, as is Luke Ford at the tight end spot. That whole young group of kids we brought in are all competing.”

But back to the question. Can Fields actually unseat Fromm?

As talented as everyone seems to agree that Fields is, it’s not like Fromm is some kind of unproven wannabe. Not after leading Georgia to the SEC Championship, an overtime Rose Bowl win over Oklahoma, and a spot in the National Championship.

It’s also fair to assume that Fromm, just a sophomore, worked hard this spring and in the off-season to fine-tune his game, in an attempt to become an even better quarterback than he was the season before.

"I’m just very glad he’s here, a part of our program and competing for a starting position for our team"
— Jim Chaney on Justin Fields

“I love [Justin]; he’s a wonderful young man, and he comes from a great family. He’s a competing son-of-a-gun, and he’s also a hell of a good football player. The future is very bright for him,” Chaney said. “As far as what happens in the future--playing time and all that--it's going to take place in the next three to four weeks. Who plays and who doesn’t play, you know as well as I do, that it gets down to Coach (Kirby) Smart’s decision. So I don’t get in to all that. I’m just very glad he’s here, a part of our program, and competing for a starting position for our team.”

The Fields-Fromm debate is one Smart is growing weary of discussing.

When asked on Friday if there was any scenario involving Fields starting at quarterback, Smart rolled his eyes and let out an audible sigh.

"I look at it, can Tyson Campbell beat out Deandre Baker? Tyson Campbell could beat out Deandre Baker. Can Brenton Cox or Robert Beal have a chance to start over D'Andre Walker? Certainly. I think could Jamaree [Salyer] work at center or Warren Ericson work at center and beat out Lamont [Gaillard]? Certainly,” Smart said. “I think when you start thinking about that, and you start trying to make it a bigger deal than it is, for me it's all about who's going to play with the most consistency, who's going to do things naturally as a leader. It's about who's going to understand and develop and make right decisions at every position. Are we headed in team-goal oriented decisions, and are you working as hard as you possibly can to out-compete the other guys?”

The only thing that’s seemingly assured is that Fields will in fact play.

When asked during SEC Media Days if there was a chance the freshman is redshirted, Smart said that scenario’s not in the plans. Although a new NCAA rules allows freshman to play in four games and keep their redshirt, it certainly appears Bulldog coaches' plan for Fields extends way beyond that.

Tight end Isaac Nauta acknowledged the competition between Fromm and Fields is real.

“Coming in this spring Justin had a lot of time to work and learn the offense, and now a full summer to learn it as well. So there’s going to be a lot of great competition, which is what we want. It creates better players and makes everyone around them better, so it’s going to be exciting to see what happens in camp,” Nauta said.

“Both are great players. What Jake did his freshman year speaks for itself, and he’s an awesome player, too, but just having a guy behind pushing you--it only makes you better and makes for a better camp.”

Wide receiver Riley Ridley took the diplomatic route when asked to offer his take on the current quarterback situation.

“Of course it’s a competition. It’s a competition at every position we have. No one has a spot now, but now that we’re in camp, it’s time to let the fur fly,” Ridley said. “Yeah, I feel comfortable in Justin, I feel comfortable in Jake, that both of them can lead the team if needed. I feel like Coach (quarterback coach James) Coley is coaching those guys up so they are leaders, that they are able to make the right adjustments.”

Whatever happens, don’t look for the Bulldogs to change their offense just to take advantage of Fields’ unique talent.

Both quarterbacks will run the same plays on offense, although Chaney acknowledged Fields’ skill set will allow the Bulldogs to expand some of the plays they already use.

“Justin’s ability to run the ball is exceptional. We don’t have a vast amount of depth at that position right now, so when you start running quarterbacks, you’re putting him in harm’s way a little bit more, so you’ve got to be really conscious of that,” Chaney said. “I don’t know if you walk out and say, because Justin Fields can run, he is a running quarterback. I think Justin Fields is a fantastic quarterback. He happens to be able to run. So that’s a good thing. Designing a playbook directly because he can run, I think that would be disoriented from who we want to be as a football team.

"But it does give us some different things we can open in the playbook. It does open some pages to it. As far as strategy goes, it’s another skill set available to us to use at any time we want to.”