There’s quite a buzz surrounding Justin Fields these days. You know who really loves this dynamic young quarterback?
Shockley WAS Justin Fields back in another day and another time. When Shockley became the first commitment of the Mark Richt era, he was the No. 3-ranked quarterback in the country. Georgia already had a quarterback at the time, and a darn good one in David Greene. But at Richt’s behest, Shockley came anyway. And despite a brief period of disappointment and uncertainty, he said it’s a decision he “wouldn’t change for anything.”
I got to hang out with Shockley and his beautiful wife Portia for a while Tuesday morning at his home in Duluth. I’m in the midst of working on another great series for DawgNation readers, and you’ll get a lot more insights and background on Shockley when that package rolls out next month.
But in the meantime, some things are so time-sensitive you feel like you have to share them now. And that’s how I felt after my discussion with Shockley turned to Fields and dual-threat quarterbacks in general.
Shockley was the proverbial dual-threat quarterback when he inked with UGA out of College Park in 2001. As a senior playing for his father at North Clayton High, Shockley he threw for 1,861 yards and 11 touchdowns and rushed for 864 yards and 8 more TDs.
Shockley ended up redshirting that first season at Georgia as Greene took a firm hold of the starting position. But over the next few seasons, when the Bulldogs would win one SEC championship and play for another one, both Shockley and Greene played. When the offense was really rolling, Shockley would roll in every third or fourth series of every game. Sometimes he might stay in for more than one.
It was a nightmare for opposing defensive coordinators.
“Defenses had to prepare for Greenie and for me,” said Shockley, who will be doing broadcast work this fall for the ACC Network, SEC Network and Atlanta Falcons. “That’s extra preparation for the defensive coordinators; that’s something they don’t want to do. To have a guy that can come in there with that different skill set — still be able to run but still be able to throw it around — it just adds a different dimension to the entire team and gives opposing coaches another thing to worry about.”
That’s what Shockley believes Fields can bring to Georgia — “another whole dimension.” So intrigued was Shockley about the 6-2½, 205-pound senior at Harrison High that he went to see Fields play himself.
He liked what he saw.
“I had heard a lot about him, and I was like, ‘Oh, OK, yeah, another talented kid. I’ve seen that before,’” Shockley said. “Then I watched this kid and I was like, ‘Wow!’ This guy’s got something. He’s big. He can run. He looks like he has tremendous poise. Wherever he goes, that team is going to have a dynamic player. He’s one of those kids that’s smart, that understands the game and won’t be easily flustered.”
In case you missed it — and if you frequent DawgNation.com, you couldn’t have — Fields accounted for 6 touchdowns in Harrison’s 44-14 season-opening victory over East Paulding this past Friday night.
As a UGA alum and Bulldogs letterman, Shockley is limited by NCAA rules on how much interaction he can have with Fields as far as encouraging him to go to Georgia. But as a college and pro football analyst who happens to have matriculated at UGA, he can’t restrain his feelings.
“I hope we get him,” Shockley said. “I hope he becomes a Dog, seriously, because if he goes anywhere else he’s going to wreak havoc on everybody. And I’m sure Georgia would have to play him because he’s going to go to a big-time school, and nine times out of 10 we play them. So I hope he goes to Georgia. I’m pulling for it. He’s one of those kids you watch where you say, ‘Wow, he’s got it.’”
Of course, the Bulldogs already have a couple of quarterbacks, and both of them were very highly regarded in high school. Sophomore starter Jacob Eason was a consensus 5-star prospect coming out of Lake Stevens High in suburban Seattle, and backup Jake Fromm had at least one 5-star rating when he left Houston County High and became an early enrollee at UGA this past January.
Shockley knows all about that dynamic. He was embroiled in a three-year competition with Greene, and never became the undisputed starter until his senior year, when he famously led the Bulldogs to an SEC championship in 2005.
But facing and providing intense competition on a daily basis is a necessary component for a building a championship program, Shockley said. It was something that Richt sold him on when he recruited him to UGA — and when he convinced him to stay following his sophomore season — and it’s something that current coach Kirby Smart is selling to Georgia recruits every day right now.
That’s why Shockley is so fascinated by the competition being waged between Eason and Fromm and follows it so closely.
“I think Fromm coming in pushing Eason is big,” Shockley said. “Obviously Jacob has all the tools. He’s a big, strong kid; he can throw it through a brick wall. But I think at times last year he relied on that ability too much. And I think now he understands there’s a guy behind me that has similar abilities. He’s hungry and he wants my job. So I think he HAS to put in extra time to make sure he’s mentally prepared. Physically he’s in good shape, but he has some things to overcome there, too, with his feet and that kind of stuff.
“Having that type of competition, having those two guys pushing each other is ideal for the university. You’ve got to have that.”
Shockley said he has talked to Eason a lot the last couple of years, and to Fromm “a little.” His advice is to keep their head down and keep preparing as if the next play could be yours or your last one, depending on where you are in the competition at the moment.
And he also said there’s not only room for a third candidate in this race, it’s actually a necessity. You need three that can step in “without the offense missing a beat” at all times.
In the meantime, Smart was asked about dual-threat QBs at the Touchdown Club of Athens meeting Monday night at Athens Country Club, and whether he’d like to get one to UGA.
“Absolutely,” he said, knowing full well where to find just the one. Shockley didn’t even have to tell him.