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Justin Fields has a tough decision to make about which team he'll join in 2018.

UGA football recruiting: Why 5-star QB Justin Fields now matters so much for 2018

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 a 5-star like Justin Fields might lean, plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.

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Justin Fields is now that guy for Georgia in the Class of 2018.

Luke Ford and Justin Fields--UGA recruiting
Justin Fields (center right) led his Mach Speed to the 7-on-7 team championship at Nike’s The Opening earlier this month. (Student Sports)

That’s borderline presumptuous, considering that UGA already has a commitment from the nation’s No. 1 RB for 2018 in Zamir White. The Bulldogs are also right in the thick of the recruiting race for the nation’s highest-rated interior line prospect over the last 20 years in Pace Academy’s Jamaree Salyer.

That’s all well and good, but Fields (Harrison/Kennesaw, Ga.) is a quarterback. His showstopper performance at The Opening has elevated him to a very exclusive recruiting perch: nation’s No. 1 QB and No. 1 overall prospect.

The nation’s No. 1 QB is important to a recruiting class? Well, duh.

But Fields also fits the bill for a number of glowing terms that convey his true importance to the class: domino, lightning rod, rainmaker, etc.

The 6-foot-3, 221-pound quarterback is going to bring some players with him. The Bulldogs now have nine commitments for the Class of 2018. That ranks 48th overall in the latest 247Sports composite standings.

That said, the Bulldogs don’t have any receivers committed yet. If Fields chooses Georgia, then I believe that will effectively end the recruitment for several of the team’s top offensive targets.

At the minimum, I project that the following dominoes would fall. I’d look for:

  • 4-star Kearis Jackson (nation’s No. 25 WR) to choose UGA when he makes his decision on Aug. 19.
  • 4-star Josh Vann (nation’s No. 34 WR) to also quell his internal back-and-forth with South Carolina and choose Georgia.
  • 4-star Luke Ford (nation’s No. 2 TE) to also follow Fields to Athens.

Justin Fields also changes the arc of the 2018 class

Let’s cover the bases on a few topics very quickly here. I do feel UGA will still land Fields. That’s even though I continue to hear significant chatter in Florida State’s direction.

With Fields, the Bulldogs can again land a class that ranks among the nation’s top 3 for 2018. It would be a struggle to field a top 10 class without him.

When The Opening wrapped up in Oregon this month, I left Nike’s headquarters with the feeling that Georgia would land either Fields or 5-star Matt Corral for 2018. When Corral abruptly chose Florida on his first visit last weekend, that left only Fields standing in that scenario.

Justin Fields-UGA recruiting
Justin Fields is rated as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect for the Class of 2018. (Chris Kirschner/SEC Country)

Fields-to-Georgia also would be a significant sign of what Georgia’s recruiting operation now looks like. The Bulldogs have always been able to recruit, but no program has been able to recruit three consecutive 5-star quarterbacks — as ranked across the various services — to the same team in the modern recruiting era.

That show of strength would not go unnoticed. Fields to Georgia also would definitely help with the final decisions made by players such as Salyer and running back James Cook (Miami Central/Fla.), among others. Cook de-committed from Florida State earlier this month. The Seminoles’ legacy currently ranks as the nation’s No. 3 RB and No. 33 overall prospect by that same 247Sports composite.

Think about that potential haul:

  • Nation’s No. 1 QB
  • Nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 RBs

That, in my estimation, would be a backfield for the ages in modern recruiting history.

Those previous paragraphs should matter. They do. But here’s the part where my roots as an objective newsman return to the blog. There’s also the following.

  • Fields would be no more ballyhooed than Jacob Eason was when he came to UGA.
  • He would be a clear No. 3 QB when he arrives on campus and would not quickly ascend to a starting spot. Why not? He currently doesn’t plan to enroll early because he wants to play a final season of high school baseball.

No quarterback, no matter how highly rated he is, should come in and start right away for a program that aims to play in the big games come December.

What does Florida State offer Justin Fields?

It has come down to Florida State or Georgia for Fields, I feel. Perhaps the biggest pull for the Seminoles would be coach Jimbo Fisher’s track record of producing quarterbacks.

There’s also playing time. Redshirt sophomore Deondre Francois was the ACC Rookie of the Year for Florida State in 2016. He will command all the major reps in 2017 and could declare for the NFL draft after this season. That said, it isn’t out of bounds to think that Fields could compete with Francois for playing time in 2018.

Justin Fields-UGA recruiting
Harrison High standout Justin Fields is the nation’s No. 1 prospect for 2018. He also scored a 29 on his ACT and holds a 3.9 GPA. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm are expected to still be at UGA in 2018. But neither of those players can run a 4.51 laser time in the 40 and also be praised by Elite 11 QB coach, and former Super Bowl winner, Trent Dilfer for his cerebral approach to the position. 

There are a lot of home-state reasons why he should choose UGA. Georgia doesn’t have a dual-threat quarterback on the roster, and it has just two scholarship quarterbacks at that. His younger sister, Jaiden, also is committed to play softball at Georgia in 2019.

The Bulldogs also have recruited a massive line to protect the quarterback. Florida State has two offensive line commitments that rate among the nation’s Top 15 prospects at their position in 2018, but the Seminoles signed just one OL in 2017. That prospect didn’t rank among the nation’s Top 50 players at his position.

 

Georgia signed a total of six offensive linemen who were rated among the nation’s Top 25 prospects at their positions from 2016-17. Florida State has signed four such players across those last two classes. It looks as if both schools have the potential to sign at least two to three more elite players up front like that in 2018.

Florida State signed two wide receivers who were rated among the nation’s top 25 players at their position in 2016-17. Georgia signed two prospects, JJ Holloman and Mark Webb, who were rated among the nation’s top 25 prospects in 2017.

Both programs also have recruited an impressive collection of top 5 running backs over the last few cycles. The Seminoles signed the nation’s No. 1 RB in Cam Akers and the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose back with Khalan Laborn in 2017.

Georgia can match that with D’Andre Swift, the nation’s No. 4 RB, in 2017 and White in 2018.

 

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