LOS ANGELES -- There was a moment earlier this month when Jacob Eason was literally being pushed out of the picture at Georgia.
In the giddy locker room following the Dawgs' SEC Championship Game celebration, Eason had the misfortune to have a locker next to freshman conquering hero and teammate Jake Fromm.
Reporters had to step over and actually nudge to the side one former five-star starting quarterback (Eason) to get to the current four-star starting quarterback (Fromm).
Eason kept his wits about him while keeping his head buried in his phone, leaving others to consider how Fromm had done the unthinkable in leading his team to an SEC title as a true freshman. Adding to the clamor that night, Fromm had been allowed to speak to the media for the first time this season.
Meanwhile, football Darwinism had made Eason an afterthought in real time. In the sport as in evolution, the same cruel truth applied once again -- survival of the fittest.
"That's football," Eason said, looking up from his phone and around elbows in his face.
The disappointment of the Week 1 injury had long since made him a clipboard holder. In the meantime, Georgia had become the SEC title holder.
"In life," Eason surmised, "you're going to get hit with obstacles."
Eason had been hit with what some described as a cheap shot, suffering a knee injury in the opener against Appalachian State. In an awkward, inspirational, and ultimately successful transition, Fromm did what some thought Eason was destined to do.
"I had no idea what I was getting myself into," Fromm said.
Well, he had some idea. The native of Warner Robins, Georgia, says his family repped the "Dawgs ever since I was born." Fromm knew of the longing. It has been 37 years since the last Georgia national championship.
"We're sick of hearing, 'The glory days of the '80s with the Dawgs,'" tight end Jeb Blazevich summed up. "We're ready to make our own mark."
No matter what may be said in preparation for the Rose Bowl semifinal against Oklahoma, Fromm couldn't have prepared for all of that to fall on him so fast as he leads the Bulldogs into the College Football Playoff.
"He doesn't play like a freshman," Oklahoma linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo said. "He doesn't have any nerves."
Fromm was barely a month removed from his 19th birthday when Eason went down.
"The first thought was, 'Is Jacob OK? How severe was it?' star tailback Nick Chubb recounted. "The next thing was, 'What do we do next?'"
You know by now the quarterback transition has been one of the most significant in college football over the last three decades. Fromm finds himself a couple of games away from being the first true freshman quarterback to win a national championship since OU's Jamelle Holieway.
That was 32 years ago.
"Hopefully, I can add my name to [that list]," said Fromm, who admitted he didn't know Holieway from Katy Perry.
Fromm has gotten this far because of his coaches, his ability and his tailbacks -- and perhaps against his better judgment. He came to Georgia knowing he would have to beat out Eason, the player Kirby Smart identified as the most important to his first recruiting class in 2016.
Fate cleared a path for Fromm.
A fine 8-5 debut for Smart featured Eason throwing for 2,430 yards and 16 touchdowns. But at title-starved Georgia, that's all it was: fine.
No one prepares you for these kinds of things. Fromm can't explain why he yelled at upperclassmen during summer workouts when he didn't have a resume to back him up. He also can't explain why those upperclassmen listened to him.
"When you get to college, you've got to start from the bottom," Fromm said. "Nobody cares how many stars you had and this and that … Guys just started buying into me."
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney added, "He had a great appreciation for the struggles Jacob was going through. The team could sense that and feel that."
Chaney has seen it all. He played nose tackle at Central Missouri State, near the farm he grew up on in Holden, Missouri. The man helped bring the spread option offense to the Big Ten as Joe Tiller's offensive coordinator at Purdue. He had the same title for Lane Kiffin in that ill-fated 2009 season at Tennessee. Then he stayed for three more equally ill-fated years under Derek Dooley.
When he joined Georgia in 2016, he was making his fourth stop in five years. No one can explain why Florida State loses its starting quarterback and falls to 7-6. Georgia lost its guy and didn't miss a beat.
"Damndest thing, ain't it?" Chaney said. "I was lucky enough the pieces I had to go to work with all just kind of fell into a beautiful puzzle this year."
"Survival of the fittest" takes many forms. Fromm fit with Chaney. Eason definitely was not the fit this season. In fact, it may not be too long that he is not a fit at Georgia period.
The smart money is on Eason transferring, perhaps to Washington State closer to his native Lake Stevens, Washington. Meanwhile, Smart has stocked the quarterback room like it was a doomsday shelter. There's plenty of high-protein quarterback play to go around.
The addition of Justin Fields -- a five-star quarterback and the nation's No. 2 recruit -- all but screams someone has to go.
"We don't give a rat's butt who plays," Chaney said. "That's why we've been able to continue down the path recruiting so many high-profile players."
Disappointment over Eason's injury turned into speculation over when he would return. When the answer turned out to be "not this season" -- at least not as the starter -- acceptance morphed into adulation.
Fromm could actually play. Backed by an improving offensive line and two of the best running backs in the country (Chubb, Sony Michel), he didn't have to make all the plays. But he surely made enough to be the SEC's most efficient passer and average more yards per attempt (9.4) than everyone in the league but Missouri's Drew Lock.
Sure, Georgia was favored to win the SEC East. But to get to this point after being knocked so far down? Fromm's run started slowly with a one-point win at Notre Dame. Chaney said he admittedly called a conservative game to protect his young quarterback.
A 41-0 whitewash of Tennessee was Georgia's first over the Vols in three years. Auburn remains the only opponent this season to put the game on Fromm's shoulders. In that 40-17 loss, Chubb and Michel were held to a combined 48 rushing yards.
Then in the SEC title game rematch, the biggest game of his young career, Fromm threw to two touchdown passes against Auburn.
When the doors opened to Georgia's locker room that night, the result had pushed aside any doubts at the same time Eason was actually, physically being pushed aside.
Fromm was sort of familiar with that long-ago freshman feeling of not belonging in one's environment. "But, man, I haven't had that feeling in an extremely long time."