- If Justin Fields leaves Athens, will he stay in the SEC or head to a more far-flung contender? There should be no shortage of teams interested in bringing in one of the most talented young QBs in the country.
With the reports of Georgia freshman quarterback Justin Fields exploring, dozens of quarterback-needy schools will be lining up for the services of the dual-threat talent that some outlets considered the top prospect in the class of 2018.
Fields’s unique situation is explained here in detail by SI’s Andy Staples, but under new NCAA transfer guidelines, Fields has a strong case to receive a waiver for immediate eligibility, and players no longer have to request permission to transfer from a school, which leaves him a bevy of options as he contemplates where he will play college football next.
Fields’s season on the field was uneventful compared with the exploits of recent five-star freshmen. He did play in all 12 games, completing 27 of 39 passes for 328 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, and he was the player who infamously ended up with the ball on the ill-fated fake punt attempt late in the Bulldogs’ SEC title game loss to Alabama. But he rarely operated the offense in full and often spelled Jake Fromm as a change-of-pace dual-threat option.
Fields could always come back to Georgia and spend the 2019 season on the bench if Fromm stays healthy and remains the starter, but several big-name programs will keep a close watch on this potential high-profile transfer.
Let’s take a closer look at some potential landing spots for Fields should he officially decide to transfer.
The Buckeyes certainly aren’t hurting for talent at the quarterback position, with rising redshirt sophomore Tate Martell, a 5'11", 210-pound dual-threat, waiting in the wings to take over should Dwayne Haskins head for the NFL. Ryan Day is taking over for Urban Meyer, but Buckeyes quarterbacks will still be expected to play a big role in the running game, which suits Fields’s dynamic skill set.
Though Florida’s offense improved over the course of the season, it remained inconsistent to the point where Feleipe Franks and his limitations were a season-long point of conversation. Fields’s arrival on campus would perhaps push Franks to be better as the presence of Kyle Trask and Emory Jones have in the past calendar year, but Dan Mullen’s history as a developer of quarterbacks could certainly hold some sway.
This one is a no-brainer. The last two starting quarterbacks for the Sooners have been transfers who went on to win Heisman Trophies and led their teams to the College Football Playoff. Any quarterback would be served well under Lincoln Riley’s system, which requires precision passing and features elements that pro teams have borrowed. If Fields wants to make himself the most attractive NFL prospect possible, this might be the best option.
LSU has been searching for above-average quarterback play for a while, and Fields could bring the kind of excitement that could bring Tigers offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger’s unit close to matching Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s unit. Graduate transfer Joe Burrow stepped up in several big moments, but the Tigers threw for fewer than 200 yards in seven games this season and threw only 13 touchdown passes. Any semblance of a vertical passing threat, which Fields possesses, could give them an attack to scare Alabama for the next few years.
Fields originally verbally committed to Penn State in December 2016, only to change his mind six months later, claiming his decommitment was “in no ways a reflection of any deficiencies of PSU, its coaches, players or fans.” He landed at Georgia in October ’17. Whatever the case for the switch, if the fit that once drew Fields to Happy Valley is still intact, he could be the player head coach James Franklin needs to get the Nittany Lions over the hump and into the playoff.
While Auburn is the closest campus on this list to Fields’s hometown of Kennesaw, Ga., the ever-present coaching drama complicates matters for a team losing Jarrett Stidham to the pros. No one knows if Gus Malzahn will be there beyond next season, and another subpar year could mean wholesale changes, but the way Fields was used as a freshman in Athens hints at what could be unlocked if he was placed at the controls of Malzahn’s offense.
The Seminoles have two quarterbacks on the roster, junior Deondre Francois and redshirt sophomore James Blackman, and neither one of them was able to keep a rebuilding 2018 team from snapping the program’s 36-year streak of postseason appearances. Fields’s dual-threat skills could help mitigate a porous offensive line and could stabilize the offense as head coach Willie Taggert continues to stockpile talent.
Here’s a wild-card choice based solely on a potential fit of skill set and scheme. There hasn’t been any word of Fields wanting to head out west, but with Chip Kelly’s pedigree and the offense that he runs, it’s worth taking a look at, and after having a racial slur directed at him during a game, Fields may be interested in getting some distance from his home state. The Pac-12 South has had four coaching changes in the last two seasons, meaning one difference maker at quarterback could get the Bruins competitive in a hurry. Dorian Thompson-Robinson didn’t do enough as a true freshman to write off Kelly opening up the quarterback competition to newcomers.