ATHENS, Ga. -- People often like to pontificate that if you have two quarterbacks, then you really have zero.
Kirby Smart certainly doesn't look at it like that.
Despite having the nation's No. 1 quarterback prospect during his first year as Georgia's head coach in 2016, Smart is happier to say that he has two legit quarterbacks taking reps this spring. His 2016 prodigy, Jacob Eason, started 12 games as a true freshman and threw for 2,430 yards with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Smart also has true freshman Jake Fromm, an ESPN 300 member who some coaches around the league believe can legitimately push Eason for the starting job this fall. Fromm passed for 12,745 yards and 116 touchdowns in 46 career high school games. The Warner Robins, Georgia prospect threw for 3,910 of those yards as a senior at Houston County High.
From the day Fromm arrived in Athens, Smart has given him high praise. He's complimented his talent and gushed over his leadership skills. Unprovoked, he's talked about how one of the first things Fromm did when he arrived at Georgia was gather the receivers for a few games of catch.
The true frosh doesn't just like being a quarterback at Georgia. He wants to be the quarterback at Georgia.
"The best thing that’s ever happened to [Eason] is the Fromm kid because it’s been a wake-up call to see how Fromm’s managed everything," Smart told ESPN on Wednesday.
It's a needed wake-up call for Eason, who has all the talent and potential to plaster "All-American" across his forehead at some point but still has a ways to go when it comes to both leading and executing on the field. Now, he's got a hotshot freshman (much like Eason was a year ago) in his rear-view mirror. Smart is quick to say that Eason is ahead in this quarterback competition, but Smart is also very serious about the fact that Fromm does a really good job from a technical standpoint, asks really good questions in meetings and is "always taking notes."
Sure, every good player should be excelling in those categories, but it's even better to see it happening at the backup quarterback spot because the hope is that it motivates the starter.
"When you got a guy sitting next to you doing all these things exactly right, it puts a little more pressure on you to do them exactly right," Smart said. "Jacob needed that."
And the winds of change have taken hold of Eason. During a team-building exercise in which Smart had every player write his name on a piece of paper, what he thought his role on the team was and pass it around the room, Eason saw his leadership questioned. Smart said that almost every comment that he got was about leadership, about stepping up and taking a leadership role.
That exercise helped Eason become more vocal. He got out of his comfort zone. Smart said Eason started to take more command of the offense, and he started watching more film in order to get a better grasp on understanding opposing protections, which haunted him during his first year.
"He’s taking ownership in a lot of those things," Smart said. "Maybe we’re not getting results yet, but he understands what he’s got to do."
Those results will come. Mainly because Eason will get better with age and reps, but he'll also get better because he's getting pushed for the first time since he won the starting job early last year.
This is Eason's team. But he has to earn it, and that's a very good thing for him and the Bulldogs, even if this competition actually bleeds into fall practice.
"You always hope that you have tough decisions to make because guys are doing really well," Smart said. "What you don’t want is a guy to be doing really well and another guy doing really poorly and have that kind of easy decision. I want both these guys to play at a high level.
"If they both play at a high level, that gives us a good problem to have -- two productive quarterbacks is what you’d like to have."