Welcome to the first Dawg Sports recruiting roundup. You guys came through with the questions in a big way. In fact, between the website, Twitter, and emails I have more questions than I’ll be able to handle in three Q&A posts. So I’m going to hoard those suckers the way I do Southern Comfort vanilla spice eggnog during the winter.
For now, let’s just talk about the recruit UGA fans most want to talk about: Harrison QB Justin Fields.
Bill in Alpharetta emails, and gets right to the point:
"I think the good guys have a better shot at Fields than the ‘experts’ are giving us credit for. What do you say?"
Well, first I would say that Kirby Smart and Jim Chaney aren’t getting nearly enough credit for the fact that they’re this deep in the Fields sweepstakes. For one thing, they’ve already gotten a consensus five star QB in each of the past two recruiting cycles (Jacob Eason in 2016 and Jake Fromm in 2017).
No coaching staff in the modern recruiting era has signed three five star QBs in three cycles. Not Bobby Bowden’s FSU squad. Not Pete Carroll at USC. Or Nick Saban at Alabama. So we’re talking unprecedented territory, especially for a staff that doesn’t yet have a reputation for churning out David Greenes and Matt Staffords and Aaron Murrays at will.
For another, bear in mind that not long ago the narrative surrounding Georgia’s 2018 class was that Clemson commit Trevor Lawrence and Ohio State commit Emory Jones were easily the best two signal callers in the Peach State and that Georgia had whiffed on both. The staff’s decision to keep recruiting Fields is indicative of solid evaluation on their part.
Will Fields end up in Athens? I think the odds at this point slightly favor FSU. Very slightly. Jimbo Fisher has put a duel threat quarterback (Jameis Winston) at the top of the NFL Draft. He’s also run an offense at FSU that is tailored to that type of quarterback.
I’m sure Chaney wants to move in that direction. I’m sure that he can put plays on the whiteboard that demonstrate how Georgia might use a guy like Fields. But Jimbo has actually done it on the field, and that’s huge.
If Fields is looking to find the best situation and the system most suited to his talents that’s probably in Tallahassee. But he also brings something to the table that no QB in Athens has. That means that while he isn’t likely to knock Jacob Eason out of his starting role, Fields could play as a freshman as a change of pace player much like D.J. Shockley did.
If his heart is in Athens Smart and Chaney may need to do just enough to convince Fields and his family to follow it. His sister is already committed to UGA for softball and that may play a part in things. Fields is also close to his parents and may not want them to have to travel all the way to Tally to see him play.
I’d put the odds at 55% FSU, 45% UGA, but no one really knows where Justin Fields is headed. He’s played things close to the vest since decommitting from Penn State, and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. Which begs the question posed by commenter Get_Smart:
If we miss on fields, which i don’t think he’s as big of a fsu lean as many seem to think, do we target another duel threat qb?
The thing is, Georgia already targeted several duel threat quarterbacks who elected to commit elsewhere. Georgia already offered 24 different QBs in the class of 2018, the most I’ve seen from a Bulldog staff by a mile. Low Country standout Dakereon Joyner chose South Carolina* and Louisiana product Justin Rogers (who I think will be a phenomenal college player) picked TCU. Central Gwinnett’s Jarren Williams picked Kentucky, and Matt Corral chose Florida. That’s a lot of bites at the apple on signing a blue chipper.
Georgia has a dilemma. The staff needs to sign a quarterback in 2018. If not, they face the specter of entering 2019 with only Jake Fromm and a freshman signed in next year’s class on the roster. That’s exceptionally dangerous.
But scholarship numbers in the 2018 class are tight. Using a ‘ship on a guy who’s unlikely to ever be "the guy" is a waste.
Georgia might yet try to flip Williams from the Wildcats. But there’s also the possibility of going after a good instate quarterback for a preferred walkon spot, as they did with Pierce County’s Stetson Bennett in 2017. A couple of names to keep an eye on include Luke Shiflett of Northwest Whitfield (currently committed to Middle Tennessee St.) and Cordel Littlejohn of Roswell.
Littlejohn in particular is worth watching. The North Carolina native moved to Georgia in hopes of getting noticed by competing against better competition. He already has offers from Illinois and Tulane but has thrown at camps this summer in Athens and Chapel Hill. He was phenomenally productive at Lincolnton High in North Carolina, throwing for 3700 yards. Littlejohn even bested Justin Fields to win MVP honors at one camp in Charlottle earlier this year.
One way or another, Georgia must add a QB in this class. Littlejohn might be a guy who knows his role and is willing to come in, compete for a couple of seasons, then hopefully get his shot after Fromm leaves. I like the way he throws the intermediate ball, and he has decent touch for a young player. Again, just a thought.
Finally, Christian asks:
I’ve heard Justin Fields may be bringing several players with him to the school he signs with. But nobody seems to know who they are. Who could it be?
One guy who’s made clear that he wants to play with Fields is Peach County receiver Kearis Jackson. Frankly I believe Jackson likely ends up in Athens no matter what Fields does. Another name to keep in mind is blue chip tight end Luke Ford. Past that it’s hard to say.
But it’s not hard to imagine a ripple effect in which a couple of skill position players on offense affect the decisions of some friends on the defensive side of the ball. Maybe a guy like five star North Carolina defensive end KJ Henry, who already has the ‘Dawgs in his top five, is pushed that little bit further by seeing a guy like Fields commit?
That’s goong to do it for tonight. Thanks again for all the questions, and be on the lookout for some guests talking recruiting in the coming weeks. Until later...
* An earlier versionn of this story erroneously reported that Joyner committed to Clemson. And frankly I wish he had so we wouldn’t have to face him.