UGA recruiting: The whole state will be watching Justin Fields Friday
Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. In this edition, we take a look at a high school football game that will be one of the most intriguing matchups in the state this year as 5-star QB Justin Fields will lead Class 6A Harrison against Class 5A defending state champion Rome.
Fields, a major UGA target, will clash with a Rome defensive line flush with major-college prospects. The biggest recruit from those Wolves will be another Georgia target, Adam Anderson.
Justin Fields is a great football player. Water is wet.
But is Fields, thinking of the late Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green here, who we all think he is? Is he really the nation’s No. 1 overall player for 2018?
Fields, who sits in that top spot, gets another chance this Friday to show why he deserves that honor. His Harrison team will travel to Rome to face the defending Georgia High School Association Class 5A state champion Friday.
The Class 6A Hoyas beat Rome 22-20 to open the 2016 season, thanks to a late fumble they scooped up on their own 2-yard-line. The rematch could attract a crowd of approximately 10,000 people.
Those fans will be there to see what Fields can do, but they also hope to see what a very stout Rome team can prevent him from doing. That adds to the intrigue.
Is that possible? Yes, that’s very possible.
The two most important elements in football are the quarterback and the players (read: pass rushers and pocket crushers) who affect the quarterback.
Rome has plenty of those.
The 5-star Fields will be countered by a 4-star defensive end (Adam Anderson), a 3-star Tennessee commit at defensive end (Jamarcus Chatman), a 3-star LSU pledge at defensive tackle (Ja’Quon Griffin) and a Navy commit (TJ Cammack) across the Rome front.
Fields closed out last year’s win against Rome. He got that chance after the Wolves fumbled on a 2nd-and-goal from the Harrison 2 with about 4 minutes left. Harrison ran the remaining 3:50 off the clock as Fields dashed for a pair of first downs and also got an assist from some inclement weather.
Can any team stop 5-star Justin Fields?
Fields threw for 213 yards and ran for 100-plus yards in last season’s meeting. That said, he only completed 46 percent of his passes in that effort.
Give that Rome front a lot of credit for that. Fields converted 5 of his 14 third-down attempts in a tight game. But he did not turn the ball over, and he also ran the ball 13 times for another 132 yards. The Harrison standout added 2 touchdown passes.
“He pulled off some miracles last year,” Rome coach John Reid said. “He was on the ground once and threw the ball up. … Probably should have never thrown it. Our guys were blitzing the heck out of him, and there’s a kid standing there and caught it and went the distance.”
There was another jaw-dropper besides that one.
“He was in ‘no-backs’ and we covered everybody but unfortunately he pulled it and we missed leverage on it and he escaped and got down the sidelines and ran it all the way down for a score,” Reid said.
Fields has made tremendous strides in his overall game since last fall.
“I’ve watched him on film and he’s good enough to buy some time on even the best of defensive lines,” Reid said. “He wouldn’t be ranked like he is if he wasn’t a great player. But he’s also a tough player. We beat him up last year and he came back at us.”
The aim is to beat Fields up again this year. But to do so carefully.
“We just can’t go hell-bent for leather up the field,” Reid said. “Because you will leave him a gap to run through. You have to keep a guy like that pinned in. Make him beat you throwing it. But he’s also got a great receiver out there, too.”
Fields has gotten a lot better since that meeting. But so has Rome.
The latest about Justin Fields
It is pretty clear that any update on Fields also calls for an update on his thoughts about colleges. That’s not the easiest thing to do. He’s not granting any interviews regarding his college decision.
But here’s the latest that I’ve heard and what I’ve cobbled together from all sources:
- I think UGA eventually will earn the commitment from Fields and sign him. I also feel that decision could come at any time.
- The commitments that UGA gained last week were not that big of a big surprise to him.
- My best guess? His decision most likely will come after he’s seen at least a few games in September.
- The two biggest contenders for Fields are still Florida State and Georgia.
Checking in on Rome’s Adam Anderson
DawgNation visited with Anderson last week. It was a treat to watch the Wolves practice. It was a session that anyone who loves to watch great football and players getting after it would pay to watch.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound prospect rates as the nation’s No. 2 outside linebacker for 2018, according to the 247Sports composite. He was once committed to both UGA and LSU but wants to be deliberate with what he hopes is his final commitment.
How has he improved heading into his senior season?
“Just a bigger and a stronger kid,” Reid said. “He got to play 15 games last year, so that’s a lot of tweaks and tweaking and a lot of film study for us to work with him on. We got a lot of ‘Do this’ and ‘Don’t do that here’ with all of his reps from a year ago. We’re into intricate stuff with him now. Not the easy stuff.
“We’re into getting him to read the hands of the offensive tackles on pass sets. Before it was, it was getting him to see the keys for whether it was a pass or a run. He’s much more advanced of a player with his technique than he was last season.”
Anderson said he likely will make his decision after his senior season. That places a December or January timeline on his next decision.
“I guess I might find myself kind of close to deciding after our season,” Anderson said last week. “Probably after that year. I might wait it out a bit with our season. Probably after then. Right around January or February.”
If Georgia lands a re-commitment here, it would be a dream haul of pass rushers to add him back to the class with current pledges Azeez Ojulair and Caleb Tannor.
Did you see this, Part 1?
Recent UGA commitment Azeez Ojulari set a school record at Marietta High with a 340-pound power clean.
The power clean is the best lift for any football player. It is a great gauge of their explosiveness and core strength.
The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Oljulari was already the strongest member of the Blue Devils. He can squat more than 500 pounds. And now he’s in the record books.
— Marietta Football (@MHS_FBRecruits) August 23, 2017
Did you see this, Part II?
DawgNation published the first chapter of The Season Tuesday. The documentary series features 5-star Pace Academy senior Jamaree Salyer.
SEC Country Studios will capture his season through several chapters this fall. Salyer is the nation’s top-rated offensive line prospect this year, but he’s also the highest-rated interior lineman (center or guard) since 2006.
Yet we hope to show a lot more sides to Salyer than that. The 6-foot-4, 340-pound prospect is motivated by his family and aspires to be known as more than just a football player.
He is in a different role at Pace Academy this fall. That will come first.
The college attention from bluebloods such as Clemson, Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Stanford will take a back seat to another state title run with the Knights.
Pace Academy won a state title when Salyer was a sophomore in 2015. That’s his hope for his final high school season this fall.
Are you all caught up on your Intel? Miss a day? 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.