UGA needs a QB. I know a QB who needs a team

Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman (9) during the Bulldogs’ practice in Athens, Ga., on Wed., Aug. 26, 2020. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith)
Georgia quarterback Jamie Newman (9) during the Bulldogs’ practice in Athens, Ga., on Wed., Aug. 26, 2020. (Photo by Chamberlain Smith)

Credit: Chamberlain Smith

Credit: Chamberlain Smith

Jamie Newman, we hardly knew ye. You transferred from Wake Forest to Georgia after Jake Fromm made himself available for the NFL draft. You were ticketed as the starting quarterback for the team ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press preseason poll. Seeing as how No. 2 Ohio State isn’t playing football this fall (more about this soon), you were essentially the No. 3 team’s presumptive No. 1.

And now you’re not. Goodbye, Newman.

Nothing should shock us anymore, but Wednesday afternoon’s announcement absolutely did. From a Newman tweet: “Due to the uncertainties of this year amid a global pandemic, I will officially opt out of this football season to prepare for the 2021 NFL draft.”

The upshot is that Georgia sits 3 ½ weeks from its opener at Arkansas without a No. 1 quarterback, unless you count the USC transfer JT Daniels, which you probably shouldn’t. Because of injury, he played in one game as a Trojan last season. Because of rehab, he hasn’t been cleared for contact by Georgia. Where’s Joe Terenshinski III when you need him?

Newman isn’t the best player to opt out of the season ahead. Ja’Marr Chase, the LSU receiver last seen running past Clemson cornerback (and future Falcons’ No. 1 pick) A.J. Terrell in the national championship game, announced over the weekend that he was recusing himself from the season, assuming there is a season. But Chase, great as he is, doesn’t play quarterback. Newman leaving without truly arriving is a stunning development in a year that has been chock-a-block with stunning developments.

Newman never played a game for Georgia. (The G-Day scrimmage was canceled, you’ll recall.) In his abbreviated time in Athens, he wasn’t made available to reporters. He was ranked the sixth-best quarterback of the potential 2021 draft class by ESPN’s Todd McShay, so hopes were high. Indeed, hopes were so high that some UGA backers insisted their team had traded up from Fromm, among the most distinguished Bulldogs ever. Moot point now.

Let’s get this out of the way: I find most conspiracy theories laughable. I do not believe that (insert famous person’s name) controls the world. If we’ve learned nothing in 2020, it’s that our world is beyond control. That said, I find it fascinating that Justin Fields, of whom you’ve heard, is believed to have attended Saturday’s scrimmage, which was more than the reporters who cover UGA got to do.

Recap: Fields was a big-deal signing for Georgia; he left for Ohio State after one season as Fromm’s understudy; he led the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff and finished third in the 2019 Heisman Trophy balloting. He figured to be one of the two best quarterbacks in the land this fall, fellow Georgian Trevor Lawrence being the other, but Ohio State plays in the Big Ten, which decided not to play.

So: Fields has nothing to do except wait to see if/when the Big Ten plays again. If it isn’t until the spring, he might well opt out himself. He has an autumn’s worth of time on his hands, and if the reports of his presence at Sanford Stadium on Saturday are true, he still knows how to get to Athens. I’m not suggesting that Fields-back-to-Georgia is a fait accompli. (That would be a conspiracy theory.) I am, however, wondering if there’s anything to prevent him from rejoining the Bulldogs if he and they were so inclined.

News flash: Big-time quarterbacks transfer all the time. (The past three Heisman holders began their college careers elsewhere.) Fields was granted a waiver when he exited Georgia, allowing him to play immediately for Ohio State. Would anything prevent him from seeking to transfer again, this time basing his waiver case on the reality that his latest program has chosen not to field a team this fall?

Possible snag: There mightn’t be anybody left at NCAA HQ to hear the transfer/waiver request. Ralph Russo of the Associated Press reported Wednesday that the organization “will furlough its entire Indianapolis-based staff for three to eight weeks.” The furloughs, Russo reported, are scheduled to begin Sept. 21. As luck/fate would have it, Georgia doesn’t play until Sept. 26.

I know, I know. There are more reasons that Fields-back-to-Georgia won’t happen than reasons it will. For one thing, the Bulldogs are running a different offense from when he left. For another, it didn’t appear his leaving was entirely amicable on either side. For yet another, it would look weird: Quarterback leaves home, finds new home, leaves again for his old home. That’s not a narrative anyone affiliated with the NCAA is eager to author.

That said, these are times – stop me if you’ve heard this – unseen in the history of civilization. Who would have imagined a virus would change pretty much everything in our 21st century world? This much is apparent: Georgia could use a quarterback, and there’s a first-rate quarterback who can’t, for reasons beyond his control, play for his current school. The same quarterback has taken to Twitter to plead his case. (#WeWantToPlay, he typed, though he didn’t specify where.)

Will it happen? Probably not. Might it happen? After the past five months, I’ll never say never again.

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