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Jeff Sentell/SEC Country
Justin Fields had an impressive game in defeat last Friday night against defending Class 5A state champion Rome.

UGA football recruiting: 4 angles on why 5-star Justin Fields is special

Jeff Sentell

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 plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.

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Justin Fields did not lead Harrison High to a victory this past Friday night in Rome. He went all-out against a Rome front that features three future SEC players.

The Wolves were all over him. He told his team in the locker room at halftime that he was going to start jumping over defenders in the second half. Fields, a major UGA target, wasn’t kidding.

Fields had 2 touchdowns called back in the first half because of flags but still led his Hoyas to a 21-17 lead in the second half. Rome piled it on after that and won convincingly in a 33-21 result.

Justin Fields-UGA recruiting
Justin Fields has now rushed for or thrown 9 TDs in two games this year. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Fields finished 21 of 30 through the air for 230 yards and 2 touchdowns. He threw an interception on a ball he had to launch.

That came on a highlight clip where he faked the nation’s No. 2 OLB Adam Anderson basically into this Tuesday.

Fields, the 5-star QB, showed off his status as the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat passer by dashing for 73 yards on 20 carries. He added a 12-yard scoring run in the second half.

Want to see every clip of his game against Rome? SEC Country Studios was there to capture it.

The stat line for Justin Fields so far

Harrison’s senior QB is now 32 of 48 passing for 457 yards, 6 touchdowns and an interception in 2017. He’s added 226 rushing yards on 32 carries. That’s 7.1 yards per attempt. His three rushing scores put his touchdown count at 9 TDs through two games.

But the Hoyas fell to 1-1 on the season. It was interesting watching Fields meet with his team after the game on Friday night.

Justin Fields-UGA recruiting
Justin Fields is rated as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect by the 247Sports composite. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

He was bothered by the loss. It affected him. That’s an admirable trait for a young man who will no doubt lead a team one day on the college level.

That’s what you have to see in a player who should lead a top 10 program. He’ll have his team in every game.

It had been a spring and summer where everything went right for Fields. Count me among those who feel we learn the most about an athlete when things do not go their way.

Fields did not speak with the media after the game. That parallels a policy he recently established for his season. It does look as if he has a camera crew following him at every game.

It seems he will have some sort of season-long documentary to chronicle his senior year, just as highly regarded UGA freshman Jake Fromm did last season at Houston County.

What did we see from Fields against Rome? I collected three more opinions from Friday night.

Rome High coach John Reid on Justin Fields

The coach of the state champion Wolves didn’t focus just on how well Fields threw the ball. There was one spiral he let loose for 40 yards while his toes were pointed toward the band in the visitors stands.

Yowsa. Impressive.

But Reid did mention the play where he made prized defensive end/outside linebacker prospect Adam Anderson miss.

“I thought [Anderson] was fantastic at times and at times I thought the other kid [Fields] showed how fantastic he was. It was everything I think everybody wanted to pay and see,” Reid said.

What stood out to the man who game planned against Fields?

“What I think is remarkable about him is two years in a row we have hit him,” Reid said. “I mean hit him and physically put him on the ground. And two years in a row now there is no quit.

Justin Fields-UGA recruiting
Harrison senior QB Justin Fields likely eventually will choose between Florida State and Georgia. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

“That’s the biggest thing for me. There are going to be kids like him around. Big. Strong. Fast. Great arm. But what makes him different is the ‘want to’ he has. His will to win. He had that team on his back in that third quarter. He had good receivers, too. Good receiver core. They have a lot better receivers than what you might think.”

Reid has seen a lot of great players and signal callers in his career. Where does he rate Fields after facing him in back-to-back years?

“He’s as good of a competitor and a quarterback [as he has seen] and in the physical part,” Reid said. “He’s much better than he was last year. Last year, he didn’t have that swagger. I think that swagger is an overused word but it is not a bad one for him. The reason why I am using it is that is the difference in Fields this year.”

The Rome coach said he got the sense Fields didn’t really understand the depth of his talent and ability. The big offers hadn’t all rolled in yet.

“Last year it was he was, ‘Hey, look I am playing quarterback. I might be a baseball player’ and kinda like that,” Reid said. “This year that dude is large and in charge. He is a future NFL kid.”

Harrison High coach Matt Dickmann on Justin Fields

Calm. Cool. Collected. Coach on the field.

Harrison coach Matt Dickmann uses all those terms to describe what he sees out of his star QB.

“His attitude is just really fun to coach,” Dickmann said. “It is a blessing to coach [him] because he just has that great attitude.”

It has been an evolution. Fields is a senior now, but it is still hard to believe that his first scholarship offer came just 17 months ago from North Carolina. His UGA offer came in November 2016. Florida State didn’t offer him until earlier this spring.

Justin Fields-UGA recruiting
Justin Fields is set to attend the Alabama-Florida State game this weekend at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

“The only thing I’ve ever seen him do every year is grow,” Dickmann said. “He works. His intelligence level for a high school player is off the charts. It is going to be fun to sit back and watch him one day.”

Dickmann said Fields will have blue-chip players and nimble 300-pound offensive linemen around him. There will be All-American high school running backs and receivers to distribute the ball to.

Fields will have more than a second and a half to get the ball off. That’s about what he had against Rome. The Wolves, without question, have the best defensive front in Georgia.

“When he has all those Division I athletes around him, he is going to be even more special,” Dickmann said. “You don’t get to enjoy it as much now coaching him. You’ll have to look back on it like I did after last year.”

Dickmann said Fields didn’t offer any speeches or locker-room moments against Rome. He didn’t recall any human moments. But Fields didn’t grill his line for not holding their blocks longer.

He also kept his composure after seeing a penalty for 12 men on the field wipe out a touchdown pass. A holding call reversed another, but that pass attempt probably wouldn’t have resulted in a touchdown without the hold.

His coach just saw a player doing his job. One play. Shake it off. Then to the next play.

“He’s the same, win or lose,” Dickmann said. “He’s competitive but keeps his cool. He will look at things and know what he has got to get better at.”

That leads to my next topic.

How has Justin Fields gotten better?

Fields shined in the shorts-and-helmet phase of the offseason. His ranking soared with one great camp after another with the pads off.

How does that translate into winning football games in September and October?

“I just think the one thing is when he comes to the sideline a lot of times we are on the same page talking about stuff and what we see together,” Dickmann said. “That way when you go back out on the field you know what to expect.”

Justin Fields-UGA recruiting
Justin Fields has become a better leader and a complete QB now two games into his senior season. (Jeff Sentell/SEC Country)

Dickmann noted another key area of growth in what is really the first job for any quarterback. The highlight plays and 5-star rankings must fall in line after that.

It sounds a lot like what UGA freshman Jake Fromm does very well, too.

“His leadership was never bad, but it has gone to a whole new level,” Dickmann said. “He is coaching people. That is the difference this year. He is coaching everybody around him. He’s keeping kids up, too. That’s what he didn’t do last year as much. But now he is doing that all the time this year.

“He’s taken his leadership to where his athletic ability has always been. Which is great for us and the team.”

I’ll share a story soon about how Fields dropped his 4o-yard dash time from a 4.8 to a 4.5 in a matter of a few weeks. He’s clocking hand-timed 4.3s now.

But what Dickmann said there stands out even more to me than that.

4-star OLB Adam Anderson on 5-star Justin Fields

Fields made Adam Anderson look silly at least one time. But the ledger definitely seemed slanted in the Rome senior defensive end’s favor.

Anderson piled up at least 3 1/2 sacks on Fields and forced a fumble that was recovered in mid-air and returned for a 7-0 lead for his Wolves.

What did he think about Fields?

Anderson said he considers Fields one of the best players he’s ever competed against.

“You can’t tell if he is going to run the ball or pass it,” Anderson said. “It makes it hard for a [defensive end] to figure that out most of the time.”

Miss any of our recent Intel? Well, the DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to Mecole Hardman speed before your tailgate crew can worry anymore about all the freshman offensive linemen who will have to play this fall.