Well, that was fast.
After just a year in Athens, Justin Fields is reportedly set to transfer. That’s according to USA Today’s Dan Wolken, who dropped that bombshell news Monday night. ESPN also reported that Fields was exploring a transfer, but that he could still return to Georgia.
While Fields hasn’t made any official announcement yet — contrary to what that fake account tweeted late Monday night — it does appear that this conversation is much more realistic than it was 24 hours ago.
And keep in mind that there are layers to this.
If Fields leaves, it seems likely that he would seek a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately instead of sitting out a season. As Andy Staples noted, Fields could use the incident that occurred at the Tennessee game when one of the Georgia baseball players used a racial slur that ultimately resulted in him getting kicked off the team. So for argument’s sake, let’s assume that Fields could indeed play immediately in 2019.
Here are 6 destinations where Fields could end up:
1. Ohio State
According to a report from the Toledo Blade, Ohio State has emerged as the front-runner to land Fields. Wooooo boy. What an interesting development that would be. Go figure that according to The Blade, the primary reason for that would be to play for Ryan Day, who took over for Urban Meyer after he retired following the regular season.
That makes sense in many ways and is questionable in others. For starters, Fields would no doubt thrive with Day. Dwayne Haskins put up historic numbers playing in his offense in his first year as a starter. The opportunities for Fields to air it out and be the star of the show would certainly be there.
But there are still some questions. What if Haskins stays another year at Ohio State? Fields could wait in 2019, but keep in mind that blue-chip recruit and fan favorite Tate Martell is still in Columbus. The expected replacement for Fields won’t just step aside and let him take the starting gig.
Could Fields ultimately win the starting job? Sure, but considering what he just went through at Georgia backing up Jake Fromm, he might seek a clearer path.
If that path is cleared for Fields at Ohio State with Haskins leaving though, look out.
I’d love to see what Lincoln Riley’s recruiting pitch to Fields would be. I imagine it’s just him sitting in his mahogany arm chair with a trophy case behind him. On one shoulder is Baker Mayfield’s Heisman Trophy and on the other sits Kyler Murray’s Heisman. Both were transfers, by the way. Riley stares deeply into Fields’ eyes and drops the line of the century.
“Want to make it a hat trick?”
In all seriousness, any quarterback is bonkers if they don’t consider going to a place like Oklahoma. As long as Riley is in Norman, that offense is built for quarterbacks to shine.
With the likelihood that Murray is playing baseball or going to the NFL, there could be a window for Fields to play immediately in 2019. And if not, he could wait a maximum of 1 year to get his turn.
Who wouldn’t want to throw for a billion yards against Big 12 defenses?
3. Mississippi State
The Joe Moorhead connection is the obvious reason the Bulldogs could be in the mix. Once upon a time, Fields committed to play in Moorhead’s offense at Penn State. He later flipped to Georgia, but for a while, it seemed that Fields would be the replacement for Trace McSorley. Now, he could be the replacement for Nick Fitzgerald.
Moorhead would give Fields something he wants. That is, an opportunity to showcase his arm. The run-only packages he was involved in would be a thing of the past playing in Moorhead’s system, which relies on stretching the field vertically at its core.
MSU has Keytaon Thompson, who is promising in his own right, but would by no means stand in the way of Fields winning the starting job. Fields and Moorhead would be an exciting match that could shake up the balance of power atop the SEC West.
4. Penn State
Again, Fields did once give his verbal pledge to James Franklin and the Lions. As it often happens when a recruit from the South commits to a Big Ten school, Kirby Smart got the last laugh. Now, it can be Franklin who gets the last laugh.
The Lions pose a ton of benefits for Fields. Not only could he replace the aforementioned McSorley, but he could do so with a top-15 team and play in a big-time atmosphere. That roster is plenty talented at the skill positions, and Fields wouldn’t have to put the entire offense on his back.
It’d be serendipitous to see Fields wind up back where he originally committed, though if the appeal to Penn State was Moorhead in the first place, it might not be his first choice to circle back to Happy Valley.
5. Florida State
The appeal of Florida State has to be based mostly on history and Willie Taggart. The Toledo Blade and ESPN both reported that there’s interest in FSU. Why Fields would want to play behind a struggling offensive line is beyond me, but there’s at least some intrigue there.
Playing for Taggart could be attractive to Fields. The problem is that we still don’t know the status of Deondre Francois, who has been the starter in Tallahassee for 3 years. One would think Fields would essentially need to know that Francois is transferring for a grad year or going off to the NFL before committing.
If playing close to home is appealing for Fields, Tallahassee is roughly a 5-hour drive from Atlanta. There could be some appeal to stay local and to do so for an up-and-coming team.
But FSU feels like somewhat of a long shot.
My wild card when Kelly Bryant announced he was transferring was Mizzou, and that turned out to be right. Colorado is my wild card for Fields. Why? The Mel Tucker connection.
As you recall, the Georgia defensive coordinator just left to take the head gig in Boulder. Tucker brought over Jay Johnson from Georgia to be his offensive coordinator for the Buffaloes. Johnson was a key staffer working with Georgia’s offense, and he was also a big part of the program’s recruiting efforts.
If Fields wants to go somewhere to escape the bubble he’s in playing in the Southeast, Colorado makes sense. Plus, he wouldn’t worry about his coaches he trusts getting fired and he could play against Pac-12 defenses.
Look, I realize that Fields can essentially pick from anywhere he wants. Choosing the Pac-12 program 2 time zones away that went 5-7 might not make any sense to him.
But hey, that’s why it’s a wild card.