When Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia’s Jake Fromm take the field Saturday to battle for the SEC championship, it will be the second time the two quarterbacks have played each other in 2018. The first of which came nearly 11 months ago, of course, when Tagovailoa led the Crimson Tide to a national championship over Fromm’s Bulldogs.
But familiarity between the two sophomores extends off the field. They also happen to be close friends.
Despite growing up about 4,500 miles apart, Tagovailoa and Fromm formed a bond when they were being recruited as top prospects in the 2017 class. They met at developmental camps, such as the Elite 11, and immediately hit it off.
“I think it’s his foundation,” Tagovailoa said. “He has a really strong faith background. I do, too. I think that’s kind of where we click.”
The similarities don’t end there.
Tagovailoa and Fromm both made names for themselves as freshmen. Tagovailoa did it with his play in the national championship game. Fromm took over for an injured Jacob Eason early on and helped Georgia advance to the title game.
They were also both committed to play at Alabama. Just not at the same time.
Fromm was pledged to play for UA coach Nick Saban for five months, until his allegiance swayed to the favorite childhood team when Kirby Smart took over in Athens, Georgia.
Only two months after Fromm flipped to Georgia, Tagovailoa committed to Alabama. The close recruiting encounter has led to plenty of “what if” scenarios, including the two sharing a quarterback room or Tagovailoa committing elsewhere.
Looking back, Tagovailoa doesn’t think Fromm’s recruitment had an impact on his own.
“I didn’t know that Jake was committed here before I committed,” Tagovailoa said. “And my father kind of implied that we should come here, too. So I thought it would be easier for us as a family to stay on the West Coast, but it was more so a family decision to come to the university and it’s one of those things where it’s cultural. So it’s what my parents wanted more than what I wanted, you know? And it’s worked out great.”
Both signal-callers have followed up their successes as freshmen with stellar sophomore campaigns.
Tagovailoa will be contending for more than an SEC championship in Mercedes-Benz Stadium this weekend. He’ll be making his last impression on Heisman Trophy voters in hopes of becoming Alabama’s third-ever honoree. He has already thrown for an Alabama single-season record of 36 touchdowns to go along with 3,189 passing yards.
“(Tua) has an unbelievable talent when throwing the football,” Fromm said. “I think he does a really good job of dispersing the football and getting it to his playmakers. And then he has the ability to extend that play with his legs — those extra six, seven, eight seconds of the play. But I definitely think when he’s playing, you could definitely tell he’s playing for a greater purpose and something bigger than himself.”
Fromm, on the other hand, has amassed 2,236 yards and 26 scores through the air. While the two-pronged rushing attack of D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield are what drives Georgia’s offense, Saban knows the threat Fromm poses.
“Jake was playing really well last year, played really well in our game,” Saban said. “I think he’s just gotten more confident with his knowledge and experience, having played more games. I think he gets them in the right plays. He’s smart. If he knows what you’re in on defense, he’s going to throw it to the right place and do the right thing.”
Much like Tagovailoa.