ATHENS – The story of Justin Fields, Georgia, has been told many times and will no doubt recur during the television broadcast of the College Football Playoff Championship Game between Alabama and Ohio State on Monday night.
The story always ends the same Wise. Fields moves to Ohio State and Bulldogs fans lament that he left the program before he can see his talents in red and black.
Another twist of the story was revealed recently after Coach Kirby Smart recently turned a Podcast asked if Fields should have stayed in Georgia.
« That’s a great question, » said Smart, knowing better than anyone that Fields’ decision to leave UGA was one of the most polarizing moments in recent times Georgia’s sports history remains.
The fields people see now are not the same player who came to Athens as a true newcomer, of course now three years older, wiser, stronger and better.
Indeed , and many do not know or have forgotten that Jake Fromm led UGA to the brink of a national championship in the season leading up to Field’s arrival.
Fromm had the benefit of a full season of experience and success in through leading the multi-faceted pro-style offense after taking the job when reigning Jacob Eason was injured in the 2017 opening game.
While Fields was the most talented quarterback at Georgia in 2018, he wasn’t the best quarterback on the team , so he didn’t win the starting job.
Smart never gave up on keeping Fields, despite the false story that Georgia was just letting him go.
Smart has so much respect for Fields that he has him allowed to participate in a closed bout last August before the state of Ohio resumed its football season. Some UGA donors who weren’t allowed to attend at the time, as well as the families of some players, were upset.
At the start of the season, the Bulldogs had enough other quarterback drama that Fields’ training visit was a distant memory. </ "(Fields) is a great kid, his sister plays softball here, he's a very colorful, well-rounded kid," Smart said recently on a podcast on All Things Covered hosted by his friend Bryant McFadden. "So many players on the team really loved him."
The fans and media were high on Fields too, and expectations followed him to Georgia.
« With the new recruiting age we live in and that Hype following leading # 1 player, he and Trevor (Lawrence) really were the top two players in the country, « said Smart. “And (they) happened to be 30 miles apart, and there were a lot of comparisons to Justin and Trevor.” Smart revealed for the first time that Fields was feeling extra pressure early on from the success Lawrence had at Clemson to get on the field.
“At the beginning of the year it was very clear to us that when Trevor was successful and started playing, and in the Texas A&M game (second of the season), where he played more and more Just as Justin felt, « Hey, I’m as good as him and I should get a chance to play, » said Smart.
Lawrence had earned the starting job at Clemson by the fifth game of the season, while Fields was in 12th saw action as a backup out of 14 games.
Fromm was fourth for the national team in the first six games of the 2018 season and completed 72 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
Georgia was number 2 in the Nation and seemed on the way to another shot at the Nation nal championship to be back. The Bulldogs averaged 485 yards per game and 42.1 points per game despite running short of time in the fourth quarter of blowout wins.
But then came a 36-16 loss to a rising star at LSU named Joe Burrow in Game 7.
Many wondered if there was any sign of change in the next goodbye week before the all-important game against the Gators in Florida.
Fromm responded with a 36-17 win over the Gators, 17 of 24 passes for 240 yards, 3 touchdowns and no turnovers.
Georgia lost the SEC Championship Game this season 35:28 to Alabama, but Fromm was 25 of 39 and walked 301 yards with 3 Touchdowns and no interceptions against the tide.
« (Fromm) played good football and went head to toe in the SEC championship game with Alabama and we didn’t play very well defensively, » said Smart. “But Jake did a lot of good things. It was really a difficult situation because Justin is extremely talented. “
Fields was so talented that Smart worked on a fake punt game for the Alabama punt return team year round. Fields would run it out of a formation Georgia had never revealed before.
The Bulldogs practiced it over and over for the exact situation they found themselves in late in the game against Alabama.
Fields was late and then quickly gave up the throw and fought for a 2 yard win on the change of ownership. « I thought it was there and it was there today, » said Smart at the time. “We wanted to crack the ball quickly. It took us too long to catch the ball. They hadn’t covered a man. We had a man wide open. It took us so long to snap it that they realized it and covered the guy up late. «
In fact, the long snapper announced to Nick Moore that the piece was specially edited for the flood.
» We practiced this game for two years, « said Moore. “It was designed for Alabama’s punt safe.”
Some still question the call, but those who see the replay see the receiver Mecole Hardman running openly and realize that the bigger problem is the execution was.
« I just remember walking on the boat and everyone screaming my name and the boat not going the way we wanted it to, » Fields said. « That’s the only memory I have of that one piece. »
Fields was so talented that Smart took him to the Sugar Bowl with the team, even though Fields announced he would be entering the transfer portal before the team left Athens for New Orleans.
ESPN analyst Chris Fowler said at the time that Fields’ broadcast technology could fundamentally change college football.
Many felt that Georgia, who brought Fields, shared the locker room. As Smart noted, Fields was and is very popular with all of his Bulldogs teammates.
UGA players who were still upset about being cursed by the College Football Playoff Committee fell in a 28-21 loss to Texas flat.
In addition to Fields’ transfer as a distraction, Deandre Baker, the first-round NFL draft picker, also came on the trip despite advising staff that he didn’t want to play to avoid risk of injury .
Also, it was the last game coached by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, who would sign a contract in Tennessee worth almost twice as much.
Smart has since changed its policies and players have not Brought bowl games that are signing out or about to be transferred.
There is now ample evidence that the era of quarterback transfers has dawned. The last three signal callers to win the Heisman Trophy – Burrow, Kyler Murray and Baker Mayfield – were all transfer quarterbacks.
The Georgia loss was Ohio State’s win, and when the 2019 UGA offensive struggled, started Fields career with the Buckeyes.
« You can’t tell (Transfer) didn’t help him because he had to go to a really good program and play right away, and he played a lot more soccer because he was himself decided to go there. » Smart said. “So you can’t say it was wrong or right. But I would say what you said earlier, the accountability factor and the people that stand out, sometimes it pays to do that. Especially in other positions. «
Smart could certainly have used some retention at the receiving position after the 2018 season.
Many of the national critics targeting Smart for failing to find a way to keep Fields failed bothered to mention the two main reasons why UGA’s 2019 passing game was canceled:
• Five of the team’s six best pass catchers of 2018 were no longer on the roster.
Smart called it a « carousel » the recipient when explaining why the Bulldogs’ passing game was inconsistent.
Georgia « only » finished 12-2 in 2019 with Fromm under the middle, fourth in the nation.
When Fromm did the made a surprising decision to leave after the 2019 season – a lot Not exhausted from the constant criticism on social media and comparing it to Fields’ success in the stately friendly dissemination program of the state of Ohio, Smart dived into the transfer portal.
Jamie Newman was the choice, the Wake Forest QB wanted in one Play NFL-friendly offensive.
However, the Covid-19 pandemic stepped in, forcing Georgia to cancel spring practices. That cost Newman the time necessary to learn the playbook and terminology that had arrived with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
Daniels was placed in the 2018 book signing at USC after skipping his senior high school season . It’s noteworthy that he was 3rd in this class behind Lawrence and Fields.
The Georgia Quarterbacks room is full again with 5-star signatory Brock Vandagriff, who is now asking about the status of Redshirt newbie Carson Beck poses.
Smart and his staff know that managing quarterbacks’ space will always be a challenge.
« Quarterback is unique because there is only one, you can only be one on the field have, « said Smart. “You go to DB, if I’m not the best corner then I have to play safety or I play nickel or I play dime, so many other places where I can play as a player and grow and develop where you can be patient.
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