Kirby Smart lands quarterback Justin Fields, the No. 1 player in the 2018 college football recruiting class.
When Kirby Smart took over as Georgia’s head coach in December 2015, he convinced Jacob Eason, a five-star quarterback prospect in the class of 2015 out of Lake Stevens Senior (Wash.) High, to honor his commitment to the Bulldogs. A few months later, Smart persuaded Jake Fromm, a four-star signal-caller from Houston County (Ga.) High, to flip from Alabama.
On Friday, Smart secured a verbal commitment from a quarterback with more promise than both Eason and Fromm. Justin Fields, the No. 1 overall player in the 247Sports Composite class of 2018 rankings, announced at a pep rally at his high school that he will play for Georgia. Fields chose the Bulldogs over more than 30 scholarship offers.
The senior standout at Harrison High in Kennesaw, Ga., reportedly has been on Georgia’s campus multiple times this season and took official visits to LSU and Alabama, the latter of which took place last weekend. Ultimately, the hometown Bulldogs won out over those two SEC recruiting powers, plus ACC Atlantic contender Florida State.
Fields previously issued a verbal commitment to Penn State in December 2016, but he backed out of that pledge about six months later as he blossomed into the most highly regarded passer in his recruiting class and attracted attention from programs across the country. At Georgia, Fields will join his younger sister, Jaiden, a class of 2019 softball recruit.
Although the Bulldogs were viewed as the favorite to land Fields entering Friday’s announcement, Fromm’s elevation to the starting job after Eason went down with a knee injury added a wrinkle to his recruitment. A true freshman, Fromm conceivably could serve as the Bulldogs’ QB 1 for at least two more years. It will be on Fields to wrest that status away from him.
Fields is one of the most tantalizing QB prospects in recent memory. He’s a 6’3,’’ 221-pound dual-threat maestro who’s drawn comparisons to Cam Newton because of their similar physical profiles, skill packages and shared upbringing in the Atlanta metro area. Fields was named the most valuable player of the prestigious Elite 11 competition in Beaverton, Ore., this summer.
Through five games at Harrison this season, Fields has passed for 974 yards with 12 touchdowns against just one interception while rushing for 575 yards and 10 touchdowns, according to MaxPreps.
In his first full recruiting class at Georgia, signed this February, Smart upgraded the program’s talent level by reeling in potential stars like offensive tackles Isaiah Wilson and Andrew Thomas, defensive backs Richard LeCounte III and Deangelo Gibbs, running back D’Andre Swift and Fromm. That haul ranked No. 3 in the country and No. 2 in the SEC, behind only Alabama.
The Bulldogs’ 2018 class hasn’t climbed that high yet—it was ranked 13th nationally and fourth in the SEC before Friday’s announcement—but Fields’s decision is a massive boost. This haul offers Georgia the promise of a devastating backfield tandem: The No. 1 running back in the nation, Scotland (N.C.) High product Zamir White, and Fields.
Georgia’s progress in Year 2 of Smart’s tenure, assuming it continues, will no doubt lure other coveted recruits before National Signing Day. The Bulldogs’ top targets include in-state offensive linemen Jamaree Salyer and Trey Hill, in-state outside linebacker Adam Anderson and Tyreke Johnson, a four-star safety out of Trinity Christian (Fla.) Academy.
None of those prospects, however, are as important as Fields. Smart has won his biggest recruiting battle for this cycle.