It has been more than a decade since the Georgia Bulldogs last won the SEC Championship. That’s when the 2005 team led by quarterback D.J. Shockley defeated LSU in the Georgia Dome.
Georgia fans surely had to have been thinking about that quarterback and that team on Friday morning, as Justin Fields, the No. 1 recruiting prospect in the nation for 2018, committed to his home-state Bulldogs in a pep rally at Harrison High School. Fields will be the first dual-threat quarterback since Shockley to play in Athens, Ga., and the former SEC Championship Game MVP is thrilled to have another dynamic player at the position at his alma mater.
“It’s huge,” Shockley said shortly after Fields announced his decision. “To have a guy who is in state actually stay in state means a lot. It speaks volumes about where the program is heading. I love it.”
Shockley has watched Fields play and raved about his initial impressions earlier this season with DawgNation. On Friday, Shockley delved deeper into what he has seen in Fields’ game that has stuck with him the most, especially a particular skill that reminded him of himself.
“He does have a semblance of how I loved to play the game, which was composed, which was you get into some issues then you find your way out of it,” Shockley said. “The biggest thing I saw was when he gets outside the pocket, he’s not looking to run right now. A lot of people think he’s a dual threat and wants to run all the time — that’s not the case. The best thing about him and how my game was, when I got outside the pocket, that’s another threat. I can throw it as well or I can run it, and it puts a lot of strain on a defense when you can do that.”
Welcome to the Dawg Nation & Qb family @justnfields!!! Looking forward to watchin ya between the hedges continuing the legacy of Gr8 Qb play
— DjShockley (@DjShockley3) October 6, 2017
Shockley reiterated that Fields’ composure under center is one of the best qualities that he has, which then turns into natural leadership on and off the field with his teammates. Shockley didn’t see Fields conduct himself as this big-time, high-profile guy but rather just another teammate, which pays dividends.
“You could tell that he has the ability to make everyone around him better, and that comes with guys just liking you as a person,” Shockley said. “That goes a long way to a quarterback — guys will play for you, guys will go the extra mile for you, they will pick up that extra block, if you’re just a good guy. He seems like just a quality guy who cares about his teammates and is just very unselfish as well.”
Because of NCAA rules, Shockley has been unable to talk to Fields but has interacted with his father and discuss his own experience at Georgia. He said Friday that if he could share a piece of advice with Fields or any player coming into his first season of college football who might not have a certain role right off the bat, it would be something very simple.
“Control what you can control,” Shockley said. “It’s probably the most important thing that you can remember, especially as a quarterback. … The only thing that you can control is how you prepare, how you go out, how you make the guys who are on the field with you at that particular time better. Studying the game plan, making sure you’re doing all the things possible to get your body ready. Everything else — how much you’re gonna play, what coach is thinking, how many reps you’re getting — you have no control over that. And if you find yourself worrying about that, you’re taking away from your preparation, you’re taking away from getting better.”
The commitment from Fields gives Georgia an unprecedented three-consecutive years of top-rated quarterbacks entering its program, as the 2018 prospect will join Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm in the Bulldogs quarterback room. Each one has a very distinct style of play, and each one is capable of leading the team on the field.
“I would not wanna be Kirby,” Shockley said. “It’s a great problem to have. You gonna have three guys in there who are expecting to play and who are very young too, and the way they handle it is going to be very important. … I remember when I played having two quarterbacks everybody thought that was too much, but now you got three guys who are deserving of playing time, that’s gonna be interesting.”
As for the overall impact of Fields’ decision to come to Athens as part of what could be another monster recruiting class for Kirby Smart, combined with the strong start to the 2017 season, Shockley says it’s easy to see what’s building at Georgia. And with the current on-field product as well as who’s coming through the recruiting pipeline, he sees a path to new heights for the Bulldogs.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that this can be a Georgia program that consistently is competing for an SEC Championship and playing in the College Football Playoff.”