When you’re the top-ranked recruit in America coming out of high school and you sign with the runner-up in the College Football Playoff, you expect instant stardom.
Instead, Georgia freshman quarterback Justin Fields finds himself rotting on the bench, waiting for the guy ahead of him to graduate or declare for the draft before he gets his shot at the big time.
In this case, the guy ahead of Fields is Jake Fromm, who is only a sophomore and who already has that appearance in the national title game — where only the second-half emergence of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa kept Fromm from seizing all the marbles for himself in a 26-23 overtime loss last January.
So Fields, rather than hoping he can do to Fromm what Tagovailoa did to the Tide’s Jalen Hurts — grabbing the glory and yanking it out of Hurts’ hands to savor it for himself — is instead thinking about taking his ball and going home.
Or, more specifically, taking his ball and leaving home.
Fields is from Kennesaw, Georgia, but the would-be hometown hero is thinking about ditching the land of peaches and Coca-Cola, according to ESPN.
If he decides to leave, he might transfer to Florida State, Ohio State or Oklahoma, the report said.
This season, Fields completed 27 of 39 passes for 328 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions while being used mainly in garbage time of games for the Bulldogs.
Meanwhile, Fromm led the squad to an 11-2 record, the No. 5 overall ranking, a near-upset of top-ranked Alabama in the SEC title game and a slot in the Sugar Bowl against No. 15 Texas.
The Bulldogs are a combined 24-4 in Fromm’s two seasons at the helm; they would have to believe Fields could go undefeated before they’d make the switch.
Fields could apply for a hardship exception, but in general, when players transfer schools, they lose a year of eligibility, so he would not be able to perform for his new team until 2020.
Then again, it’s not like holding a clipboard is a productive use of a year of one’s eligibility, either.
If Fields leaves, Georgia will have only one scholarship quarterback on the roster.
Their top high school recruit at the position, John Rhys Plumlee of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is ranked just 148th in ESPN’s Top 300 power rankings.
Georgia is also trying to pry Zach Calzada of Sugar Hill, Texas, away from Texas A&M, but all the same problems apply as they do with the other quarterbacks under discussion. Unless Fromm declares after his junior year, he’s got that slot locked down to the point where the next time he doesn’t start a Bulldogs football game will be 2021.
Fields and his father have met repeatedly with Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart, ESPN reported.
A team source said of Fields that “(transferring) is a possibility, but we expect him to play in the Sugar Bowl. It’s not done. He practiced (Monday) and practiced his ass off. He’s going to explore what’s out there. He might come back.”
“Might.” That’s a wishy-washy word, isn’t it? It can mean either certainty — it “might” rain in Seattle in December — or dismissive folly, as in “Kate Upton might leave Justin Verlander and beg me to be her rebound guy.”
But clearly the No. 1 prospect in the nation wasn’t planning on sitting on the bench for two or three years before he got a chance to show off his skills, and that “might” mean he’s taking his talents elsewhere.
We won’t know until he says something one way or the other, something Fields has so far not done.
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