ATLANTA — The surprise wasn’t that Justin Fields decided to explore transferring out of Georgia.
RELATED: Frustrated freshman QB tells staff he’s considering transfer
No, it was the 5-star prospect chose the Bulldogs to begin with, according to ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit.
“I wondered how Justin Fields was doing behind the scenes,” Herbsteit told DawgNation in an exclusive interview on Tuesday morning. “I haven’t spoken with him, I don’t know specifically what went on behind the situation.
“But I’m not surprised — I’m more surprise he signed at Georgia than I am he’s transferring.”
RELATED: Hard to blame Kirby Smart if Justin Fields transfers
DawgNation has reported that Fields, a highly celebrated recruit who backed up Jake Fromm at quarterback this season, has talked to Coach Kirby Smart’s staff about exploring a transfer and could be in the NCAA portal within the next 24 to 48 hours.
Herbstreit said from the start of the season that Smart and Georgia would need to be careful how they managed the quarterback situation, but more so because of the potential it had to derail Fromm.
“You have to be incredibly careful and respectful of that guy (Fromm) and how you will be using another quarterback, because that affects the continuity of your roster and entire team,” Herbstreit said.
RELATED: Herbstreit cautions Georgia to be ‘very cautious’ with QB situation brewing
“I was impressed with Jake as a person, sitting down with him, and I call him an old soul, and a true alpha, and when you have a guy like that you have to be careful with how you handle him with the next great thing with the talent like Fields.
“It was, would they feel forced to play the hot-shot new star, or go with the guy that could lead them to a championship this season. As it played out, especially after the LSU game, the proof was in the pudding and the rest was history.”
Fromm ranks third in the nation in passing efficiency and has been playing the best football of his career the past six games.
Smart did what he could to work Fields into games, as the true freshman played in 12 of Georgia’s 13 games including the SEC Championship Game, completing 27 of 39 passes for 328 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Fields also carried 42 times for 266 yards and four touchdowns.
SEC Network analyst Marcus Spears said he felt Georgia pushed too hard to get Fields involved at times this season.
“When you get into the mindset as a coach that I’ve got to coddle this guy to make sure he’s not going to leave, you start setting yourself up for disaster,” Spears said. “So when you look at how they tried to keep (Fields) involved, I think it hurt them at times during the season.”
ESPN reported that a Georgia source said Fields was expected to play in the Sugar Bowl with the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) against No. 15 Texas (9-4) on Jan. 1.
The level of scrutiny that has accompanied this story, as it has escalated to a national level, seems to make that unlikely.
Herbstreit said this scenario isn’t as surprising as some people might think when one puts it all into perspective.
RELATED: Herbstreit suggests UGA should stick with Jake Fromm after LSU game
“Now, (QB coach) Georgia Whitfield told me that in all the years he’s worked on the Elite 11, that Justin Fields is the most talented quarterback to come through that system,” Herbstreit said. “I don’t question Justin Fields ability, but he has a guy who has played in a lot of big games and played really well, so when you have Jake Fromm, you have to say ‘I’m good with sitting for the next two years and learning under Jake Fromm.
“So i was more surprised when he had all these other options that he went there to begin with.”
Florida State, Ohio State and Oklahoma are among the schools some have speculated Fields could target as potential transfer destinations.
Kirk Herbstreit is working with Allstate this season to celebrate college football and the mayhem that ensues on the field each week.
An Allstate survey showed that 37 percent of college football fans would go without social media for a week to support their favorite team, and another 29 percent would give up their favorite food for a month.
Justin Fields coverage from around DawgNation
NextWATCH: Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean upbeat, positive about of...