ATHENS — Georgia freshman quarterback Justin Fields hasn’t thrown a pass in a game in more than a month, but coach Kirby Smart indicated on Monday that might soon change.
“Justin doesn’t have to come in just to run the ball, he’s a talented quarterback,” Smart said at his Monday press conference. “He’s growing as a player, (and) he’s getting better.
“The more roles we give him to benefit our team, I think he helps us.”
Fields figures to make an impact for No. 6-ranked Georgia (8-1, 6-1 SEC) against Auburn (6-3, 3-3) in the 7 p.m. game on Saturday in Sanford Stadium.
Fields has proven the most reliable solution in short-yardage situations this season, coming through on two short-yardage plays and two third down conversions in the 34-17 win at Kentucky.
Fields didn’t waste time making a statement after entering the game at the 5:23 mark in the second quarter, running for a 6-yard gain on a second-and-4 from the Kentucky 31-yard line with the game still up for grabs.
“He’s also 230 pounds, too, so he presents a lot of issues for a defensive unit, and I know that from having to coach against guys like Justin,” Smart said. “But he’s a talented player that doesn’t just have to come in the game and run the ball. And I think he and Jake work well together, and if they continue to do that, we’ll use both of them where we see it beneficial.”
Fields was 3-of-6 passing for 53 yards in the 41-13 win against Vanderbilt on Oct. 6, but the past three games have not afforded Smart to use him as a passer in games.
Georgia trailed from the get-go in its 36-16 loss at LSU on Oct. 13, and following the bye week, starter Jake Fromm was so dialed in against Florida Smart likely didn’t want to take a chance disrupting the rhythm.
The Bulldogs were running the ball so effectively against Kentucky — 331 yards by the end of the afternoon — that there wasn’t much need for pass plays.
Smart said Saturday he was so impressed with how Fields handled not getting to play against Florida that he made sure to tell his offensive coaches.
“I told our guys, here’s a guy who didn’t play a snap last week, (but) you didn’t hear anything out of him, all he did is come out and work this week,” Smart said.
“I thought he had his best practice of the year on Tuesday and he had a good practice on Wednesday. I told them, I said, ‘Man, this guy’s practicing. He’s buying in, he’s positive, cheering on the sideline and he goes in and plays well.’ “
Auburn has one of the most formidable defensive front sevens in the SEC, having allowed only six of eight opponents to score rushing touchdowns while third in the nation having allowed five rushing scores all season.