As you've probably noticed, the football recruiting coverage has been pretty sparse in these parts over the last couple of months. But I swear I had my reasons. For one, as long as Coach Perno has the Diamond Dogs in contention for a trip to Omaha, they get prime billing. Also, while spring football is going on, I'm way more focused on the guys who have already arrived in Athens. For another, Georgia's main prospect camps have occurred in the past couple of weeks. Every report prior to those was base innuendo, which wouldn't have made it through The Mayor's creepy filter. And all recruiting coverage on this site has to pass cleanly through the creepy filter.
But by now a majority of the scholarship offers that will be going out have (at least verbally). There will be some additional camping opportunities in July, but most of the guys we're really targeting (and who are seriously considering us) have made it to Athens at least once. There's never real clarity in recruiting coverage until the first week of February. But things are a lot less murky than they were a month ago.
As a result, I feel safe beginning our overly exhaustive analysis of University of Georgia football recruiting for the class of 2010 in earnest (though we've taken a couple of quick glances in that general direction). We begin with Dalton High School defensive end Jalen Fields.
Fields was the first player to commit for the class of 2010, giving his verbal pledge back on March 21st. He chose Georgia over offers from Alabama, Florida State, Tennessee, Ole Miss and West Virginia. While a couple of those schools have a reputation for offering a scholarship to everyone and everything that moves*, especially out of state, it's still an impressive list, especially only a month or two after the prior class's signing day.
The recruiting services like Fields just as much as college coaches. He's one of Rivals' top 250 players for 2010, and is currently listed as the 11th best strongside defensive end in the country. But as you know, around here we see those rankings as a jumping off point, not the end of the journey. So let's look a little deeper. From your friends at Dawgpost, via Youtube, here's some brief camp footage of Fields:
Fields is listed as 6'5 and 250 pounds. If accurate, that's not a bad set of numbers. You can tell he doesn't have an overpowering upper body at this point. He'll need to get bigger and stronger in the chest and shoulders. While he's not flabby by any stretch, I don't imagine that Fields is a guy who'll hit the weightroom, put on a bunch of muscle mass and suddenly become a 290 pound defensive tackle. I suspect that as he matures and trains, he'll lean up some and fill out into a 255-270 pound defensive end.
He already has a stout lower body, which is a good start. As one coach of mine often told us (usually while supervising grueling squat sessions) "80% of football is played below the waist." Suggestive as that may sound, he was right. Good football players, especially good linemen, must have strong leg drive. While I haven't see Jalen Fields in the weightroom, and while it may sound, as the kids say, teh gay, the guy has the kind of quads you want on a defensive end. Let's just leave it at that.
Continuing in Body By Jake mode, another feature I noticed about Fields in this video is his arm length. Seriously, the kid's built like a condor, with fingertips that seem to brush his kneecaps. That wingspan is important, especially for a pass rushing defensive end, because it allows him to use his hands to shed blocks from mammoth offensive tackles before they can get their hands on him. Let's face it, if a 340 pounder like Cordy Glenn locks up on a 250 pound defensive end, the play is usually over. An effective defensive end must be able to get body separation from offensive linemen both to rush the passer and to read running plays. Fields should be able to do that, if he can bulk up.
You probably also noticed in this video that Fields is actually running routes with the wide receivers and tight ends. While his hands are clearly not an asset, he's quick off the line for a guy that big. And there just aren't a lot of strongside defensive ends out there running 4.67 forties. That's just fast. I imagine this is one reason the coaches were so quick to offer. Coach Fabris can teach him to spin, swim and upper cut his way through blockers. But this type of natural athletic ability can't be learned.
As far as I know, that's about it for the video in the public domain. However, from the other gamefilm I was able to watch on Fields, I would describe him as a raw defensive end with incredible potential. He reminds me a little of a slightly thicker Quentin Moses, a guy with a basketball player's body still learning to play football. He has a tendency to pop up on the snap and not play with great pad level. He doesn't use his hands as well as you would like, just kind of running past blockers too small or slow to stop him. He also has some trouble getting to the ball on running plays, and just doesn't seem to "feel" where the ball is going the way that some guys do. But a lot of that may be a matter of experience. With Fields's physical gifts he'll only get better with more repetitions and film study. He has the raw tools.
All in all, I'd grade this a very solid pickup. Contrary to popular myth, we have defensive ends in Athens. Demarcus Dobbs will be fine if he stays healthy, as will Justin Houston when he returns from suspension. Jeremy Longo and Cornelius Washington are at least physically ready to contribute, and we still don't really know what Kiante Tripp, Neland Ball and incoming freshman Montez Robinson can do. Darryl Gamble will see snaps at defensive end (at least in the nickel package we play a lot of these days), and Darius Dewberry might also put his hand down this season. What we really lack is certainty about how good these guys will be. As such, picking up Fields and 1-2 other ends 9like B.J. Butler, who we previously profiled) is a sound contingency strategy. Hopefully, some of the guys listed above will grow into their roles, and Fields will be able to redshirt in 2010. But if we need somebody to come in immediately and put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, I don't doubt that he could do that, too.
Until Free Form Friday . . .
*True story: Houston Nutt once offered a full ride to the janitor at an Itawamba, MS high school because he liked the guy's upper body strength while he was emptying the trash cans. Plus the Head Rebel thought the guy "looked well developed for his age." Only later did he realize that age was 38.