Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. There’s really just one thing to write about today. That’s Justin Fields and what the first week of college football means to his eventual decision.
It was if the recruiting race for 5-star QB Justin Fields couldn’t get any more interesting for Georgia fans. Or Auburn or FSU fans.
But then it did. Drastically. With just the first full weekend of the season.
That’s why it was always smart for Justin Fields to look at his three major contenders (Auburn, FSU and UGA) and note the discernible differences. Fields had done all of his research and made his visits. He felt good about all those relationships and opportunities.
Those schools then needed to separate from one another by what they did on the football field.
How so? Give me about six sentences of backstory (three per team) here, then you’ll see exactly what I mean.
The best Fields case for Auburn in 2017: That would’ve been for Gus Malzahn’s program to pile up the wins and trend toward a 10-win season. That would also propel first-year starting transfer quarterback Jarred Stidham to a prime 2018 NFL Draft slot.
The best Fields case for FSU in 2017: The Seminoles also needed to launch redshirt sophomore candidate Diondre Francois to the NFL. FSU needed to go toe-to-toe with Alabama and show it could protect its franchise starter better than it did in 2017.
The best Fields case for UGA in 2017: Jacob Eason needed to show marked improvement under offensive coordinator Jim Chaney in his sophomore season. He would play so well that heralded freshman Jake Fromm would only be able to get garbage time or a scripted entrance into big games just to get his feet wet.
Gulp. Yeah, all of that escalated quickly.
Auburn held serve after week 1. Francois is out for the year at FSU. My best estimate is that Eason will miss most of September. Fromm will be the starter in Athens for at least the next 3-4 weeks.
What does this mean now? That’s the huge recruiting question.
How the Justin Fields decision will evolve going forward
DawgNation got on the phone Sunday night and rounded up as much information as possible about this supposedly new set of cards all around for this decision.
A few well-placed sources did not wish to go on the record, but I will allow their words to shape the opinions I will express here.
The more things change, the more they will sound the same.
Justin Fields and those close to him will now watch even more football to watch this fall. That family DVR will likely hold the key to a lot of tells in that camp.
If anything, I would feel it slows down the process and the timeline for him to make a decision.
Fields is fortunate in that case. He has a lot of leverage. Auburn, FSU and UGA aren’t going anywhere. A lot of big-time programs have their 2018 elite quarterback prospects already squared away. Those programs do not.
A lot of big-time programs have their 2018 elite quarterback prospects already squared away. Those three specific programs do not. They can and will wait on him. All the way up to National Signing Day (or close to it) if need be.
The nation’s No. 1 overall prospect per the 247SportsComposite has scored a 29 on his ACT and carries a 3.9 grade-point average at Harrison High. That gives him even more leverage.
Football is a rough game. The next man up stuff was stated over and over this weekend. The Eason and Francois cases only reinforce that. If Fields were to suffer a catastrophic injury this fall, then maybe the elite programs back off. I’d say they would still be after him.
But if they go elsewhere, then a lot of the core academic schools (Duke, Northwestern, Wake Forest) should still be there for him as he recovers.
Where do Auburn, FSU and UGA stand now?
Auburn, as stated before, held serve after Week 1. The Tigers won impressively in a paycheck game against Georgia Southern and Stidham did play well. He completed 14 of his 24 attempts for 185 yards with 2 TDs and an interception. The dual-threat did add 17 yards on the ground and a 14-yard scoring run.
When you look at it from all angles, it seems like Florida State’s case took on the most water.
James Blackman, a true freshman, is the next man up in Tallahassee. The 6-foot-5, 195-pounder was a 3-star prospect in 2017. He was rated by the 247SportsComposite as the nation’s No. 16 overall pro-style prospect.
If he struggles this year, then Fields would like his chances in that comparison. But then there’s Francois. He will be coming off an injury and will be given every latitude to win the job after missing all of 2017. Francois redshirted in 2015 and will be draft-eligible in 2018.
If Blackman does very well this fall, then I’d imagine FSU becomes even more complicated for Fields. He’s a competitor and wants to play early in his college career.
Have I mentioned that Fields has said several times that he doesn’t mind redshirting in college? He’s heard the stat about how the majority of NFL quarterbacks redshirted in college. He’s keenly aware of that.
So where is Georgia with Fields?
True freshman Jake Fromm had a rousing debut on Saturday against Appalachian State. Let’s all remember he faced Appalachian State. Not Auburn or Alabama.
Fields and his camp will watch to see what he does against Notre Dame. There are just too many variables at play right now. Wait and see how he leads the team against the Irish.
That will be a big hand that will be played this Saturday in South Bend.
If Fromm plays well in a UGA victory, then that will cause a few ripple effects. First and foremost, it will show that the Bulldogs have a tremendous young freshman quarterback. Period.
If he then plays well enough to keep it even with a healthy Eason back in the fold, then that is a tremendous recruiting windfall. Consider that the recruiting jackpot.
What does that mean for Fields? Well, he did tell me something in the last week of July that now sounds awfully ironic.
“I’m not really looking at the wins and losses and how the team plays. My main thing is the quarterback position. That’s the position I play. So say if Jacob Eason gets hurt. Of course, now I don’t want him to get hurt. I don’t want that. He’s a great guy. A great guy. But for example, then in that situation maybe Jake Fromm goes in there and lights it up. Just tears it up.”
Well, for me then Georgia has kind of solidified their starter. I would have to take a good look at that. Now, I’m not afraid to compete. But I feel like if he has that experience then he would have that edge over me. But if Jacob Eason plays most of the whole season, then Jake Fromm doesn’t have that edge [in playing time] on me at all.”
Let’s be clear. Fields told me that one month ago. I don’t expect him to go on-the-record answering any recruiting questions anytime soon.
The way he looks at that might change. That happens a lot with teenagers. He might simply look at the UGA depth chart, see what Fromm is doing and still think he has the arm, intelligence and athletic ability to get on the field fast no matter what Eason or Fromm do this year.
If he thinks that way, then he might just be right, too. That’s the right mindset for him to carry into his college career regardless.
There’s a lot of football to come up ahead. It will all get sorted out. Eventually.
There will be a lot of data about the future of the quarterback positions at Auburn, FSU and Georgia.
When that time comes, Fields will look at all of that and then make the best decision for his future.
Miss a day of Intel? 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.
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