ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — Jake Fromm knows Georgia coach Kirby Smart isn't afraid to play a freshman quarterback.
Last spring, Fromm was the new kid on campus. He used a strong first impression in spring practice as momentum to win the starting job and lead the Bulldogs to the Southeastern Conference championship and the national championship game.
This spring, with Georgia still recovering from the national championship game loss to Alabama, Fromm is the returning starter. But he'll be pushed by a challenge from highly recruited freshman Justin Fields.
Fromm realizes Fields is eager to impress the coaches and move up the depth chart.
"Absolutely. I expect nothing but Justin to come out and compete," Fromm said after Thursday's practice.
Just as Fromm learned last year from Jacob Eason, he is trying to help Fields, who brings a new challenge to the competition as a dual-threat quarterback.
"The same way Jacob was to me, I try to be that way for Justin," Fromm said. "You want to help a guy out, especially a teammate, any way you can. Helping him out is only going to make you better and is going to make the team better."
Eason started the 2017 opening game against Appalachian State, but sprained his left knee in the first quarter. Fromm took over and never lost the job. Eason has transferred to Washington.
That leaves Fromm and Fields in the spotlight for the G-Day spring game on April 21.
Fields, a five-star recruit who helped give Georgia the nation's top-rated signing class in February, enrolled early. The team has not made Fields or other freshmen available for interviews.
So far, there's no indication Fromm is in danger of losing his starting job.
Smart said last week Fields was "hitting a little bit of a wall" that is expected of first-year players as they try to learn the playbook and adjust to college.
"He has good mobility when he gets out of the pocket, and he's done a good job picking things up," said Smart of Fields. "What I like most of all about him is that he has good demeanor. He doesn't let the high plays or the really low plays affect him."
In the limited portion of practice that was open to media on Thursday, some of Fields' passes missed their targets.
An adjustment period can be expected for any freshman. That's what made Fromm's first season so impressive.
From the start, Fromm drew compliments from Smart and teammates for his knowledge of the playbook and his poise in the huddle. He was the biggest surprise of Georgia's 13-2 season.
"Jake is a bright kid and always has been," said wide receiver Riley Ridley. "I feel like he's going to keep adding to that and learning the playbook more. The sky is the limit for him because he's a very smart kid."
Fromm, named AP's SEC Co-Newcomer of the Year, threw 24 touchdown passes with only seven interceptions. Leading a run-first offense that featured tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, he completed 62.2 percent of his passes (181 of 291) for 2,615 yards.
Fromm wasn't overcome by big games. He threw a combined four TD passes with no interceptions in the Bulldogs' SEC championship game win over Auburn and Rose Bowl College Football Playoff win over Oklahoma. In the Rose Bowl, he had a block on Michel's decisive touchdown run.
Finally, in the national championship game overtime loss to Alabama , Fromm threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman but also threw an interception and completed only 16 of 32 passes for 232 yards.
Fromm said Thursday the national championship game loss "is going to be tough for anybody, but at the end of the day you kind of have to take your licks and move on to the next one."
It was part of what Fromm described as his "football education."
"Being in your first year of college, you grow up a lot," he said. "I learned a lot in that aspect. Kind of coming through what we went through last year, I learned a lot about our team and I'm learning even more now and kind of see where we're going."
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