Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney’s coaching career goes back for more than 30 years, including a stint at Purdue when he tutored Drew Brees.
So when he hears the suggestion that current players, especially quarterbacks, are more impatient about getting on the field than their predecessors, and thus are more inclined to transfer, he laughs.
“Everybody wants to play; everybody’s always wanted to play,” Caldwell said Sunday at a media session previewing Tuesday’s Allstate Sugar Bowl between the Bulldogs and Texas. “Everybody’s just talking about it more now.”
Case in point — Caldwell’s own team.
Bulldogs freshman Justin Fields, the No. 2 ranked quarterback recruit in the country last year, has filed the necessary transfer papers with the NCAA after failing to dislodge sophomore starter Jake Fromm.
It was Fromm, who a year ago replaced injured incumbent Jacob Eason in the opener and went on to become Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year as the Bulldogs reached the CFP championship game. Eason, in turn, transferred to Washington where he sat out this season.
Meanwhile Fields, in an unusual decision, has remained with the team and will be Fromm’s backup — and the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster — for the Sugar Bowl.
“First, I want to be a good teammate,” Fromm said Sunday. “So any way I can help Justin, I definitely am.
“But he and I have not personally talked about it (transferring). Right now, I think both of us are more worried about this football game and making the best it can be.”
Chaney agreed, calling the situation “challenging,” but adding that Fields’ future with Georgia hasn’t changed game-planning for the bowl.
Georgia is hardly the only team with a high-profile quarterback transfer situation.
At Clemson, true freshman Trevor Lawrence, a Georgian like Fields and the No. 1 quarterback prospect from a year ago, replaced incumbent Kelly Bryant four games into the season, and has since led the Tigers to the CFP title game capped by Saturday’s 30-3 semifinal victory against Notre Dame.
Bryant, who was 16-2 as a starter, left the team after the demotion and has since transferred to Missouri where he will be eligible in 2019.
But at Alabama, Jalen Hurts, who lost his starting job to Tua Tagovailoa one game into this season has stayed on, rallying the Crimson Tide in the SEC championship game against Georgia when Tagovailoa was injured, although he was on the field for only a handful of snaps in the CFP semifinal victory against Oklahoma. Hurts could still transfer after the title game.
To ESPN analyst Todd Blackledge, who will be working the Sugar Bowl, it just goes to show the uniqueness of playing quarterback where sharing starting duties is a rarity and backups have fewer playing opportunities than at other positions.
“You can be a backup running back or lineman and still rotate in or be on special teams,” he said. “But that doesn’t apply when you’re a quarterback except in special packages or mop-up situations.
“It’s what makes the situation so different.”
It’s also exacerbated, Blackledge added, by quarterbacks arriving at college much more ready to play than back in his day thanks to seven-on-seven leagues, specialized camps and early enrollment, something Fromm and Fields did. Plus, social media's influence can’t be discounted.
“You’ve got four-and-five star recruits who don’t have to be redshirted and certainly are less-willing to be,” said Blackledge, who was an All-America quarterback at Penn State. “They expect to play now.
“The key is to not let it become a distraction.”
Fromm said it hasn’t been for him, and, to the contrary, the competition from Fields pushed him to be better.
The numbers bear that out. Fromm is third in the country in passing efficiency and his touchdowns and yards-per-game are up from his freshman year. Fields, playing in 12 of 13 games, has completed 69 percent of his attempts with four TD passes and has run for four more.
“I was never intimidated by Justin or anything like that,” he said. “And we had good meeting rooms and practices.
“You can’t say if someone should stay or leave though. You can’t put everyone in a box.”
Except, as Caldwell said, for that universal desire to play.