Fromm’s debut season as Georgia’s QB may be tough to top

<p>
              In this Friday, Aug. 3, 2018, file photo Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm (11) throws a pass as freshman quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks on during their NCAA college football training camp practice in Athens, Ga. It will be difficult for Fromm to top his 2017 freshman season as Georgia's starting quarterback after winning at Notre Dame, winning in the Rose Bowl and taking the Bulldogs to their first SEC championship since 2005. Fromm's first challenge for 2018 is just to keep his starting job over top recruit Fields. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
            </p>

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Jake Fromm was only 10 years old when he talked his grandfather into taking him to a store in Macon that featured Georgia Bulldogs merchandise.

It was there that the young Fromm spotted a Herschel Walker helmet. The sticker shock hit Bill Haskins but didn’t deter his young grandson. Fromm, already a big Georgia fan, was determined to own the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner’s helmet.

“It was 200-something dollars,” Haskins said Thursday in a telephone interview. “He almost worried me to death. I wound up getting the helmet for him. That was a highlight for him for about a year.”

The memory made Haskins marvel at how times have changed. The helmet still sits in the family home, and Fromm has risen to the celebrity status among Georgia fans once reserved for Walker and few others.

As a freshman quarterback last season, Fromm led the Bulldogs to a win at Notre Dame in his first start, its first Southeastern Conference championship since 2005 and a Rose Bowl win in the College Football Playoff.

Georgia lost to Alabama in the national championship game, but for Haskins the 2017 season will be tough to top. Georgia was No. 3 in this season’s first AP Top 25 .

“His first season was something I’ll probably never experience again in my lifetime,” Haskins said. “It was just one heck of a ride. Just unbelievable.”

Haskins may be the only member of Fromm’s family available to talk with reporters about last season or the quarterback competition with Justin Fields . Coach Kirby Smart has not made Fromm available for interviews during preseason practice, and now the coach has extended the no-interview policy to Fromm’s immediate family.

Fromm’s father, Emerson, told The Associated Press on Thursday “I’m not getting into it with Kirby. Kirby doesn’t want me to do interviews.”

Haskins said Smart “has got a lockdown on everything.”

“It’d be a little harder probably for him to say something to me, but they don’t like for any of the family to really do stuff like this, to be honest,” Haskins said.

Smart may be wary of comments regarding Fromm’s competition with Fields. All freshmen, including Fields, are shielded from interviews.

Despite the secrecy, Fromm is widely expected to retain the starting job for the Sept. 1 opening game against Austin Peay. Smart said he has no plan to make a formal announcement about which quarterback will take the first snap in the opener.

“I haven’t really thought about it to be honest with you,” Smart said Wednesday. “We’re letting those two guys compete. Jake is going with the ones almost the whole time, so we’ll handle it as it goes. … We look at it as those two guys are competing and will continue to compete.”

Fromm impressed Smart and teammates with his poise and leadership in the huddle as a freshman. Left tackle Ben Cleveland says Fromm has even more composure entering his second season.

“He’s got more confidence than anybody I’ve ever seen at the quarterback position,” Cleveland said after Friday’s practice. “He’s very vocal, knows all the checks and he knows what needs to be done. Our whole offensive line has faith in him to make the right calls and get us to where we need to be.”

Wide receiver Tyler Simmons referred to linebacker Roquan Smith, the leader of last year’s defense and the No. 8 overall pick in the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears, when he described Fromm as “like the Roquan of the offense.”

It will not be a surprise if Georgia finds immediate playing time for Fields, the top recruit who showed his skills as a runner and passer in Georgia’s spring game.

Fromm ranked ninth in the nation in passing efficiency while throwing for 2,615 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. He kept the starting job after taking over for the injured Jacob Eason in the 2017 opener. Eason has transferred to Washington.

Now there is a new challenge from Fields.

Haskins recalled Fromm beating out a senior midway through his freshman season at Houston County (Georgia) High School. He said his grandson enjoys competition.

“I just think he looks at it as just another challenge for him to help him get better,” he said. “I think it’s good for him and I hope it’s good for Georgia, too.”

Added Haskins, briefly forgetting the media blackout: “I think he’ll tell you the same thing.”