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Jeff Sentell / AJC
Will UGA recruit a dual-threat QB like Harrison 4-star Justin Fields?

Sentell’s Intel: How does an elite dual-threat QB regard the chance to play at UGA?

Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way this 4-star or 5-star might lean and add a dab of perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.
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KENNESAW, Ga. —   If you haven’t noticed by now, sometimes the Intel tends to get a little philosophical on Fridays. We turn to more of the what could be or what might be with our topics when we are this close to game days during the fall.

The focus tends to drift toward Saturdays. Naturally.

With that, I can tell you this: DawgNation wants to see a dual-threat QB at Georgia. I can’t fault those who feel it might be an example of something my Mamaw always used to say: When Georgia starts a future NFL first-round draft pick in Jacob Eason and has Jake Fromm on the way, this entire subject is having your cake and eating it, too.

It is practically gorging on it. The UGA front porch seems ready for a Southern Living photo spread but the fan base can’t help but stare longingly to the neighbor’s yard. Is this a do-not-covet-thy neighbors-QBs thing? Maybe.

But Georgia fans can’t help but look at the fun that Alabama and Clemson are having with Jalen Hurts and DeShaun Watson, respectively. They also remember the DJ Shockley days. Shockley’s arm and legs plus his fifth-year senior’s savvy led UGA to the program’s last SEC championship back in 2005.

The dual-threat QB has consistently been one of the Top 5 most popular subjects of reader interaction since I came to the UGA recruiting beat 17 months ago. I took it all in, but was skeptical. I kind of thought this was just the work of a very vocal minority.

So I shared this poll on Twitter this week to test those waters.

Pretty interesting, huh? It seems that DawgNation wants to see the program recruit both styles, but with a lean toward the Pro-Style passer. That makes sense as it will help in recruiting. The track record for NFL franchises selecting dual threats among the Top 10 picks is spotty. When they do, they haven’t really worked out and there’s always the durability issue with the salary a starting QB commands in pro football.

I also found it interesting that 29 percent of the responses only wanted to see UGA recruit dual-threats going forward. It is also worth noting the least popular answer was basically what the Bulldogs have been doing the last 11 years since Shockley led UGA. The one-game audition of Faton Bauta would be the notable exception.

Side note: Bauta was the nation’s N0. 10 dual-threat QB coming out of high school. Yet when he got the start against Florida, he basically ran the same stuff for his one-shot deal that day. How does that happen? I’d like someone to really explain that to me one day. My colleague Chip Towers did a good job of exploring that subject matter this week

There is a point to all these paragraphs. It provides a platform to discuss the recruiting of one of the nation’s top QB prospects for 2018.

Harrison High junior Justin Fields has been killing it this season. 247 Sports (not the 247Composite) now rates him among the nation’s Top 100 players for 2018.

The nearly 6-foot-3 and 215-pounder has also captured the attention of DawgNation considering how often his name has been brought up over the last six weeks. I hear about Fields all the time in emails, in Facebook Live chats, story comments and tweets.

With that, I’ll keep my promise to you guys. I’ll write about the guys you want to read about. Simple as that.

He’s got 31 offers but…..

Fields picked up his first offer back in April. That one was from North Carolina. The roll call over the last month reads Syracuse, South Carolina, Nebraska, TCU, Virginia, Louisville and Ole Miss. Georgia Tech, Penn State, Tennessee and Virginia Tech are also among the other notables that have offered.

Clemson and Georgia have yet to dangle offers. There’s a reason for that. Fields — a savvy student — also knows what’s going on with 5-star QB Trevor  Lawrence. The 6-foot-5 junior from Cartersville is the consensus No. 1 prospect in America for 2018.

“Both Clemson and Georgia are waiting to see what Trevor Lawrence is going to do,” Fields said. “So I’ll probably get an offer from whichever school doesn’t get him.”

Fields carries a 3.9 GPA in the classroom and hopes to major in business. He sees those business decisions at work in regard to what Clemson and Georgia appear to be doing.

Fields is now rated as the nation's No. 100 overall prospect for the Class of 2017 by 247Sports. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Fields has seen his stock rise. He’s now rated as the nation’s No. 100 overall prospect for 2018 by 247Sports. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

“I’m not offended by it of course and I get it,” Fields said. “It doesn’t matter to me whether they need to wait on a guy like Trevor first. My decision is going to be about me and how I fit into that team and their offense and what they offer for my degree, too. I’m not going to let having to wait on that factor into how much I like a school and how well of a fit it can be.”

That makes Fields the third elite quarterback from Georgia for 2018. Heard County’s Emory Jones is a bonafide star in the same vein as Lawrence. He’s the top dual-threat for 2018 but he’s already committed to Ohio State.

Which team is recruiting Fields the hardest right now? That would naturally be a program on the hunt for the next Josh Dobbs coming out of Metro Atlanta.

“Definitely Tennessee,” he said. “They just feel like I would fit into their offense very well.”

Fields also said there were two other schools that were not only recruiting him hard but also giving him the most to think about. Those two options were Clemson and Penn State.

What if Georgia offers?

Fields can see the potential of playing for Georgia, but there’s more to it than that.

“I would be excited about a Georgia offer,” Fields said. “My sister is committed there for softball. She’s only a sophomore. I would definitely be intrigued by that because I have always been a Georgia fan.”

He’d have to compete with Eason and Fromm, but he wouldn’t back down from that. That’s the right answer. Any quarterback that would be affected by that has bigger problems.

“I’m a different player than those guys,” Fields said. “I can throw but also bring the run game along and those two guys are pretty much mainly pocket passers.”

Fields feels he is a passer that can run and not a runner that can also throw it. He stated that he’s been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. completed 96 of his 140 passes through the first eight games this year. That sterling 69 percent completion rate led to 1514 yards and 16 TDs. Fields

The junior has completed 96 of his 140 passes this year. That sterling 69 percent completion rate led to 1514 yards and 16 TDs. Fields has also piled up 736 rushing yards and another 10 TDs for a 7-1 team.

“I feel like having a dual-threat quarterback at Georgia would change things up a bit,” Fields said. “I think an exciting player who can make plays with his arm and his legs would be something Georgia hasn’t had in awhile.”

Fields has a tradition after every touchdown. He points up to the sky as a reflection of his faith. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Fields follows the same tradition after every touchdown. He points up to the sky as a reflection of his faith. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

UGA assistant Dell McGee is the primary recruiter for Harrison High. Clemson quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter is recruiting Fields for the Tigers.

Streeter has been recruiting Fields harder in that comparison. He’s been calling where McGee has mostly kept in touch through text messages.

Fields has been to Clemson a few times but he’s never been on a visit to Georgia.

Auburn is another potential contender among the schools of note that have yet to offer.

Fields grew up a big fan of Cam Newton. That’s why he wears jersey No. 1. But he also felt that an Auburn offer wouldn’t mean much more than ones from Clemson and Georgia.

“I grew up a fan of players mostly and not all these teams,” he said. “But I guess that would be a game-changer for me if Auburn offered. I think they have a quarterback for my class already, but Cam Newton was definitely my role model growing up.”

Penn State ranks as his best college visit up to this point. He’s already been to visit James Franklin’s program once this year. He also plans on returning next week.

“The atmosphere there was just unbelievable,” he said.

There’s no timeline regarding his decision. He’s considering the possibility of graduating next December and enrolling early, but he hasn’t made up his mind on that yet.

Just one dude’s opinion

The dual-threat quarterback option (or lack thereof) is an interesting one for UGA. My humble take on all of that would be to see any program recruit the very best character and chemistry fits for the program first.

Does he make the guys around him better on and off the field? That has usually been a big reason why the highly-touted guys do not pan out.

The best method would be to include a mix of different styles of QBs and then see which player earns the job in camp. Which guy gives the team the best chance to win? That decision should always answer that question.

The dual-threat option would make it harder on defenses in the red zone and in short-yardage situations. There’s also no way to not consider what Watson did running circles around Alabama’s defense last year in the national championship game. Especially with the amount of talent that UGA always has at running back.

A dual-threat QB would also mesh well in run-pass option calls considering the amount of talent that UGA always manages to line up at running back.

The quarterback position calls for so much more than just a specific skill set. The ability to process information quickly, make great decisions with the ball and display the right leadership skills on and off the field are just as important as how far a prospect can throw the ball or 40 times.

Lawrence is an incredible talent, but the chances of keeping three top-rated QBs in the program at one time might be better if one of those guys had a different skill set. Then maybe one of the younger guys could get on the field to help the team in specific packages.

That’s how UGA worked in Shockley while David Greene was the primary starter.

The latest on Aaron Sterling

It appears that UGA is still going to get an official visit from Tucker defensive lineman Aaron Sterling. The 6-foot-2, 250-pounder was once committed to Alabama, but he’s moved on from that program.

The 3-star recruit ranks as the nation’s No. 17 prospect at strong-side DE for 2017. He told DawgNation that he hasn’t set up any of those officials but plans to take them after the season. His Tucker team is now 8-1 on the year and looks like a definite threat to make a deep playoff run.

Sterling feels South Carolina is recruiting him the hardest. He also said the Gamecocks have consistently delivered the most interesting message in how they plan to use him.

“They want me to play the ‘Buck’ position and then defensive tackle and then defensive end and all over the defensive line,” Sterling said. “They want me to come in and make plays on third down.”

Sterling was once committed to Alabama. He said he does plan to take an official visit to UGA at this time. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)
Sterling was once committed to Alabama. He said he does plan to take an official visit to UGA at this time. (Jeff Sentell / AJC)

He said that South Carolina also offers him the best chance at playing right away.

“That’s what they have told me straight-up,” Sterling said. “I really like the feel that I have with that program right now as far as T-Rob (defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson) calling and my main recruiter (Mike Peterson) always checking in.”

Sterling felt that N.C. State and Tennessee would also get officials at this time.

He wasn’t sure how to describe the current level of interest from Georgia.

“I’d say the interest is like neutral,” Sterling said. “Because they text me and hit me up but it is not as consistent. It is just every once in awhile. South Carolina, N.C. State and Tennessee really hit me up the most.”

He said that Georgia coach Kirby Smart has texted him that the program needs him, but that point hasn’t been reinforced with regular contact.

“I get that but then (UGA defensive line coach) Coach (Tracy) Rocker hits me up but only every now and then,” Sterling said. “It seems to me like Georgia is recruiting me, but then they are really not recruiting me. Not like some other schools are.”

 

 

 

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