Quarterback Justin Fields spent six months committed to Penn State during his prep career, earning five-star status, Elite 11 finals inclusion and new scholarship offers along the way.
Now, 18 months after he backed off that verbal pledge to the Nittany Lions, Fields may again be in search of his college fit. The Georgia Bulldogs freshman intends to transfer, according to a report from Dan Wolken of USA Today.
Wolken, citing “a person with knowledge of the situation”, wrote the Fields “arguably will be the most highly coveted transfer in all of college football” and “is expected to appeal to the NCAA to be eligible (in 2019).”
With limited details available regarding this reported decision and what may have caused it, speculation is quickly spreading across the college football landscape. As you’d expect, social media began buzzing when the news surfaced and a pair of fellow former five-star Penn State prospects responded by tweeting directly at Fields.
Parsons, who led the Nittany Lions in regular-season tackles as a true freshman, spent the 2017 Blue-White Game in Beaver Stadium alongside Fields and other Penn State pledges. He de-committed the following day but ultimately returned to Penn State’s class last December; thus his allusion to coming back.
Running back Ricky Slade, another marquee member of PSU’s 2018 class, simply tweeted Fields’ Twitter handle followed by two sets of eyeball emojis.
Fields committed to the program two months prior to Slade, in December 2016, midway through his junior year at Harrison (Kennesaw, Ga.) High School. He was seen walking around campus with several Penn State classmates — receiver Justin Shorter called him a “dream quarterback” soon afterward — before Blue-White Game action last April.
Penn State staff members returned the favor by traveling to the Peach State one month later for the Harrison High spring game. Fields accounted for four touchdowns in one half, showing off his talents in front of Nittany Lions assistants and Georgia Bulldogs coaches alike.
Fields de-committed from Penn State on June 6, 2017.
“My decision to reopen my recruitment is in no way a reflection of any deficiencies of PSU, its coaches, players or fans,” Fields wrote in his Twitter announcement. “I still believe that PSU is a great academic and athletic opportunity for any student-athlete, and it will remain one of the top schools that I would consider.”
Fields visited Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State and LSU before choosing Georgia in early October. The Bulldogs welcomed him to campus as an early enrollee and he participated in 12 of 13 games this season, though sophomore Jake Fromm remained the starting quarterback en route to a second straight SEC championship game.
If Fields does indeed depart Athens, 2019 Bulldogs QB commit John Rhys Plumlee will warrant increased attention moving forward. This would be the second five-star quarterback transfer for Georgia in 12 months, as Jacob Eason left last winter to enroll at Washington.
It remains to be seen which universities would be under legitimate consideration for Fields, who was listed behind only Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence in 247Sports 2018 composite rankings. The 6-foot-3, 225-pound playmaker was productive when called upon as a Bulldogs freshman (328 passing yards, 266 rushing yards, 8 total touchdowns, no interceptions) and is less than two years removed from claiming Elite 11 MVP honors.
Plenty has progressed for Penn State since Fields factored into its plans.
James Franklin lost offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead to a head coaching opportunity and replaced him internally with Ricky Rahne. The Nittany Lions landed quarterback Will Levis last cycle and are now two days away from signing two top-10 2019 dual-threat QB recruits (Michael Johnson Jr. and Taquan Roberson).
Stevens, who was the subject of transfer speculation earlier this year, will be a fifth-year senior. Sean Clifford, a redshirt sophomore in 2019, impressed while handling No. 2 duties at the position with Stevens sidelined in September. Beyond them, three scholarship Penn State quarterbacks will carry four seasons of collegiate eligibility into next season (Levis, Johnson and Roberson).
Expect attention to expand on the situation swirling around Fields and Georgia. Once viewed as a future foundational player in Happy Valley, his next move will be monitored closely.