On Friday, Kirby Smart and the Georgia Bulldogs landed the No. 1- ranked prospect in the country in quarterback Justin Fields. They beat out Auburn, Florida State and LSU. Landing Fields is a gigantic recruiting win for Smart, but it’s also potentially another domino falling that pushes Georgia closer to the top of the food chain and positions the program to be Alabama’s chief SEC competition.
There’s always the mantra that stars don’t matter and recruiting is an inexact science, but this is a highly sought-after prospect who could make an impact on the Georgia program in a variety of ways.
And almost immediately.
One of the most immediate forms is as an extra recruiter for the coaching staff. Having such a high-profile, in-state commitment as Fields, who is from Kennesaw, Georgia, will first and foremost give Georgia an extra boost in recruiting. Fields has been on the camp and national competition circuit all summer and recruits from across the country know him and his game.
The last time a quarterback was ranked No. 1 overall was 2009 with Matt Barkley, who signed with USC. That Trojans class had 18 ESPN 150 commitments, including the No. 1-ranked defensive end and offensive guard. That helped USC net the No. 4 overall class in the country that year. That kind of powerful finish and star-studded class is what Georgia is hoping for now.
The remaining targets are a who’s who of top prospects in the Class of 2018. The list includes five-star defensive end K.J. Henry, ESPN 300 offensive linemen Jamaree Salyer and Trey Hill, defensive back Tyreke Johnson, running back James Cook and plenty more. They are recruits who could vault the class into the top five, but more important, land potential difference-makers at premier positions.
If the class pans out and enters that range, it will be the second straight top-five class for Smart and his staff, who had the No. 3 overall class in 2017. Georgia hadn’t finished in the top five of the class rankings since 2012, when Mark Richt was head coach.
Elite talent is coming to Athens, and we’re already seeing some of that talent produce for the Bulldogs. The most notable so far has been true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm, who took over for injured Jacob Eason.
Fromm has exceeded expectations, beating Notre Dame, Mississippi State and Tennessee in convincing fashion and helping Georgia to a 5-0 start. He was an ESPN 300 quarterback and flipped his commitment from Alabama, Smart’s former employer, to Georgia during his recruitment.
Getting Fromm and now Fields makes it two quarterbacks whom Smart landed by beating out Alabama and Nick Saban. That in itself shows the impression Smart has made on recruits and the caliber of prospect he and his staff have brought to their program.
Eason was the top-ranked quarterback in his class and was ranked 13th overall, so next season, Smart will have three former top-10 quarterbacks at his disposal. Having three highly touted quarterbacks on one roster could cause some problems, but it’s a good problem that is only adding to the depth and breadth of talent on this roster.
That Fromm is playing this season might actually be a good thing for Fields, though, as it eliminates a redshirt season and a year of eligibility for Fromm. That’s less time that Fields would have to sit and wait his turn, which could help with any of the potential drama of having so much depth at the position.
Outside of Fromm, the defense has shown up for Georgia this season as well, ranking No. 3 in yards per game and tied with Alabama in SEC play, both teams allowing only three points in two conference games. The Dawgs have two more takeaways than the Tide and are ahead of Alabama in defensive efficiency, ranking first for any FBS team.
And ultimately that’s the goal, right? To beat Alabama, to win the SEC and make it to the College Football Playoff.
If Georgia continues on this path, looking for its first 6-0 start since 2005, recruiting top-five classes and flexing its in-state recruiting muscles, we might just see this program get its shot sooner rather than later.
With Fields being the latest, Smart and his staff are putting together a roster filled with elite talent and stocking the cupboard to sustain success in the future. If he can build off this momentum and keep the dominoes falling in the right direction, this could take off very quickly for the Georgia program.