ATHENS ― I’ve got to admit it. I’m pretty intrigued by just how the Justin Fields sweepstakes will turn out.
My interest and fascination with college football recruiting has peaked and waned through the years. As some of you might know, I covered recruiting full time for a short while. I’ve never doubted the importance of recruiting as the lifeblood of a program, but I’ve also grown cynical over the evaluation and ranking process. I’ve just seen too many 5-star busts, too many 2-star boons and too many nationally ranked classes fizzle out to put much stock in all the hype that comes with it.
That said, I find Fields’ situation fascinating. I can’t wait to see what happens with regards to Georgia.
Fields, as detailed many times by DawgNation recruiting reporter Jeff Sentell, is a 5-star quarterback prospect from Kennesaw’s Harrison High. He recently de-committed from Penn State. Suddenly, he is the Deep South’s most wanted man, and Georgia is in the thick of it.
I’m on record that the Bulldogs need to embrace the era of dual-threat quarterbacks and spread offenses. I wrote about that five months ago, not long after Clemson put a bow on its national championship behind the considerable talents of Deshaun Watson. At different times, Georgia coach Kirby Smart has indicated his willingness to get into that game as well.
Well, Fields was off the market until recently, locked down by Penn State’s James Franklin. Now he’s available, and everybody wants a piece of him. Just this week, he will have been on the campuses of universities located in Athens, Auburn, Tallahassee and Gainesville. All of them have a legitimate want and need for this young man.
So does Georgia. Fields’ availability represents a real do-over for the Bulldogs. They already have whiffed on Cartersville QB Trevor Lawrence, a 5-star prospect who has pledged to follow Watson to Clemson in 2018. And UGA long ago offered Heard County, 5-star dual-threat prospect Emory Jones, who is bound for Ohio State, and unshakeably so, apparently.
Granted, Georgia got its man in Jake Fromm for 2017, who right now is the heir apparent to Jacob Eason. But while Fromm has some mobility traits along the lines of those of former Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray, he’s not a pure dual-threat quarterback of Fields’ ilk.
Fields is the real deal, so the recruiting experts say. His stock continues to rise as he makes the camp and combine circuit this summer. He’s now the No. 3-rated overall prospect in America for 2018, after Lawrence and Clemson-bound DE Xavier Thomas, according to 247Sports. Again, I’ve expressed my cynicism over such evaluations, but modern-day value and worth are set by these perceptions. Fields is the most attractive uncommitted quarterback prospect in the nation as of this summer.
There is evidence that Fields’ recruitment won’t last long. After all, he’d been committed to Penn State since early December 2016. And the quarterback recruiting market generally runs pretty quickly. If you want one of the highly touted kids, you had better act fast.
By all accounts, Fields and his family like Georgia. His sister, Jaiden, is committed to play softball there in 2019. He’s a 3.9 GPA student who wants to major in business. The Bulldogs never stopped recruiting him. That’s all good for UGA.
But Fields said a big part of his decision-making criteria will be how he fits into the offense. Georgia showed more spread/hurry-up traits on offense toward the end of last season, and indications this spring are the Bulldogs are continuing to trend in that direction. But right now at least, it’s still a pro-style hybrid.
Which Fields could probably run nicely from what I’ve seen. And I really like what I’ve seen. …
But if I’m Fields, I might want to hold off a while. I might want to wade pretty deep into this coming season. The real proof for Fields might be in what Georgia’s offense actually looks like this fall.
If the Bulldogs can convince Fields to come their way before then, more power to them. If nothing else, we’ve seen that Smart and his staff can recruit with the best of them.
All I know is I’m going to enjoy seeing how this one turns out. Stay tuned.