How the Justin Fields storyline affects UGA recruiting right now

George Pickens-UGA recruiting-Georgia recruiting
4-star WR George Pickens broke down his view of the UGA depth chart minus Justin Fields.

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel brings at least four days a week. The play sheet today calls for a big picture look at just how Georgia is being affected right now by the news that Justin Fields is in the transfer portal and is not likely to return to the Bulldogs next season. 

ORLANDO, Fla. — When elite WR prospect George Pickens met the media on Saturday for the Under Armour 2019 All-America Game week festivities, it started out like a perfunctory recruiting update session.

Pickens, the nation’s No. 7 receiver prospect for this class, is an impact recruit. The 6-foot-3.5, 195-pounder is a tough shadow for even the nation’s elite receivers.

The longtime commitment to Auburn did not sign with that school during the early period. He wore LSU and Georgia wristbands to the “Media Day” event on Saturday for those that traffic in those sort of things.

This blog does not. But Pickens is someone the Bulldogs will recruit heavily until the traditional signing day comes up on Feb. 6.

He said that LSU is pushing for him the hardest right now.

“That’s really I talk to them consistently more than any other school,” Pickens said on Saturday. “Besides Georgia. That’s about it.”

Who’s still in it for Pickens?

George Pickens rates as the nation’s No. 66 overall prospect for the 2019 class on the 247Sports Composite ratings. He will be one of the top remaining targets left for UGA in the class of 2019 leading up to the traditional signing day on Feb. 6. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

“LSU,” he said first. “Georgia. Florida. Most definitely Ohio State.”

Ohio State has started to come in harder for him of late. He’s taken officials to Auburn and LSU so far and has three more trips to take.

But then the Justin Fields subject came up.

Those thoughts from the 4-star prospect there shape a bigger picture issue here than just where Pickens is going to school.

First off, it must be stated the Bulldogs did a remarkable job of handling the news drop about the Fields transfer during the week of the early signing period.

Georgia has the nation’s No. 2 class. The Bulldogs still remain within striking distance of mighty Alabama at No. 1 in the chase to repeat as the nation’s mythical recruiting champion in 2019. No school has signed as many 5-stars in this class as the Bulldogs.

Georgia actually has as many as the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 recruiting classes put together by Alabama and Texas A&M, respectively.

It was remarkable damage control. There was actually scant damage during the early period, but it appears that might be felt more in the days after the early signing cycle.

How the Justin Fields news affects elite WR George Pickens

Justin Fields leaving the QB room at Georgia affects things with Pickens. He made it seem like it will. Those two go to know one another through their connections with Cam Newton’s 7-on-7 teams.

When asked about it, the elite receiver from national power Hoover High answered it this way.

“It is kind of a big deal,” Pickens said. “Knowing he is a great player and the No. 1 recruit. So. [Jake] Fromm is kind of good. But like me, if I was to go to Georgia, I feel like it would be more of ‘develop’ years. Not just like playing ball ‘we’ve got a quarterback’ but more of like just focusing on myself. I mean I have no problem with that, but quarterback is needed.”

There’s a part of that which definitely is unfair to Fromm given what he has accomplished in college football. But that’s what perceptions are. It seems that Pickens has a lofty sense of what Fields can do in college football and his vast potential.

He also said he had no idea what Fields plans to do. Even in regard to the whole Ohio State and Tate Martell saga as it relates to Fields.

The Georgia connection with George Pickens

Pickens said that he will “likely” give UGA an official visit. His talents could offset what may or may not happen when 5-star WR Jadon Haselwood makes his decision from the All-American Bowl out in Texas on Jan. 5.

Whatever happens there, Pickens will be Georgia’s best chance at another elite receiver signee in this class. (Let’s be sure to point out that the Bulldogs signed a centerpiece receiver in this class with 5-star Dominick Blaylock. Blaylock even rates higher than Pickens.)

When asked about Georgia, the current Auburn pledge spoke about development. Both on and off the field. That’s where Georgia receivers coach Cortez Hankton has connected with him there.

He said that Hankton, like a lot of recruiters, are focusing on that message with his recruiting.

Pickens has consistently brought up the Bulldogs as a school of merit in his recruiting. It seems the Bulldogs have always been in the running there. Even with all the Haselwood storylines.

Why is that?

“It is really just their play style,” Pickens said. “They can play with anybody. They are kind of almost like Alabama. You know how Alabama like might be hot and cold but you know for sure they can play with anybody. You can possibly be wearing a ring. You can go to the NFL. That’s really what is in my mind right now with Georgia.”

“Their quarterback situation is kind of going to pan out. I feel like. They are probably going to get another recruit in there.”

Pickens made that statement there, but it did not seem clear whether or not he knew that the Bulldogs already signed 4-star QB Dwan Mathis and junior college transfer Stetson Bennett IV. Mathis was a former Ohio State commit who made that move and was at least in some degree affected by the Fields news.

Those thoughts from Pickens lead to two conclusions.

  • The decision to make the decision more about his own personal development and connection to a program actually steers him to the more logical choice. That will be a very mature way to look at it. Removing other players from the choice reduces the probability for misreads on a decision.
  • The fact he now feels the Georgia QB room “is going to pan out” is not the same as having a pair of the nation’s best young QBs atop the depth chart. It seems as if that does change the way he looks at the QB spot at Georgia. The only way for other players to logically process their decisions based on another player being there does make some sense between quarterbacks and receivers. Maybe more than any other linked positions. Those two depth charts go hand-in-hand in creating success for one another at the college level.

How this storyline affected Arizona State signee Joey Yellen

Haselwood and Pickens are potential signees. But what about the QBs aside from Mathis in this class?

That one had a few bumps. Let’s take a brief lap about the 11th-hour deliberations by a pair of Georgia targets in this class.

Arizona State signee Joey Yellen had consistently felt very strongly about Georgia. It was always one of his top 3 schools once he really started to dive into his recruiting. He took several unofficial visits across the country from California.

Arizona State signee Joey Yellen had some 11th-hour deliberations about choosing Georgia on Dec. 19. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

But the 4-star prospect was settled on Arizona State. He was good with it. That bed was made.

Georgia was tempting, but that spot behind Fromm and Fields was just not inviting enough.

“Georgia was always just a tough spot,” Yellen said. “Just because there are two super talented guys in front of you and they are both young. It was just a tough situation to go in there and beat one of those guys out.”

But then quarterbacks coach James Coley sent him a text message. It wasn’t all that descriptive. He just wanted to know if Yellen was still interested in Georgia.

That left him curious, but he didn’t probe further. Then when he heard about the Fields news from another channel, he knew what was up.

And then that bed was unmade. It was a path he didn’t want to go down again. He was good with being a potential face of the Sun Devil program. Great actually.

But then he never had the chance to consider signing with UGA without Fields in the mix. He did rethink that.

“I did,” Yellen said. “I absolutely did. But ultimately I decided to stick with my guns and stick with ASU.”

What if he had known about Fields a week earlier? He said nothing would have changed. Most likely.

“Whoo,” Yellen said while exhaling. “I don’t think anything would really change. Because you know I thought about it really hard. I didn’t sleep for like two days.”

Yellen said he did make some Sun Devil fans nervous by waiting at least one extra hour to send in his papers. He was still thinking about it on signing day.

“I think I made ASU fans hate me for about like an hour that morning of signing day,” he said. “As bad as it looks, I really don’t regret it at all. Because now I know I thought through it and I’m not going to think about the ‘what ifs’ anymore. I put all my mind into that decision. I’m sticking with ASU. I stuck with ASU and I’m 100 percent with it.”

“I’m not going to have any regrets.”

Yellen was the nation’s No. 12 pro-style QB prospect in the 2019 class.

He used the words “horrible” and “desperate” to describe the last-minute mind warp that was for him with the decision to stick with a choice he loved in Arizona State.

“I was ready for somebody to just tell me what to do,” he said. “I was scared of making the wrong decision. I was on Xbox at one in the morning asking my friends what I should do the morning before. I was a little bit desperate but now I am really confident with the ‘ASU’ decision and feel like I made the right one.”

How this storyline affected Texas A&M signee Zach Calzada

Texas A&M signee Zach Calzada is also at the Under Armour All-American Game this week. He rates as a 3-star recruit on the 247Sports composite and as the nation’s No. 18 pro-style passer for 2019.

Georgia came at him very late. Very very late. Calzada made a trip to see Georgia on the Sunday right before the dead period came down.

That was three days before he signed with the Aggies on Dec. 19. Calzada played his high school ball at Lanier.

Yes, he admits that the Fields storyline did give him pause.

“My biggest thing was to always make sure I evaluated every option,” Calzada said. “So when the new option with the new circumstance came about it was definitely something I wanted to make sure and at least take a look at.”

Calzada said he heard from Coley and Kirby Smart and Jim Chaney that Sunday night right before the dead period.

“I ended up going there that Sunday night and meeting with all the coaches and looking around,” he said. “Then it was really tough the next couple of days to make the decision that was best for me. I basically had two coaching staffs calling me basically every hour.”

He said that he eventually just sacked his phone. He shut it off, put it away and didn’t trade in those distractions any longer.

Calzada needed to process his eventual decision.

“My mom told both of the coaches [at each school] that you have to stop calling him,” he said. “I didn’t even know she did that and was just like ‘oh they are not calling me anymore’ with that. I had like 24 hours where I was really able to think about what was best for me and I ended up sticking with A&M.”

He said firmly that at the end of the day that he felt he made the right decision to stick with Texas A&M.

“It was definitely hard to turn down having the opportunity to go play for my hometown team but at the end of the day I knew that going to A&M and developing under coach [Jimbo] Fisher was what was best for me,” Calzada said.

He said, in the end, there were a lot of questions with Georgia. He wasn’t exactly sure what Fields was going to do at that time. Calzada knew what was going on at Texas A&M and that played into his decision.


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