Mark SchlabachESPN Senior WriterClose
- Senior college football writer
- Author of seven books on college football
- Graduate of the University of Georgia
But it is looking more and more likely that it will be Fields’ final game with the Bulldogs.
Smart acknowledged that Fields, the No. 1 overall prospect in the 2018 ESPN 300, is exploring his options for transferring to another school. Smart said Fields hasn’t yet told the coaching staff that he definitely is leaving.
“I think he’s looking at his options,” Smart said Wednesday. “Let me say this about Justin: Justin is competing extremely hard. He’s in the meeting rooms. He’s rolling and going with the twos. His information to us is he’s looking at his options, which is what you do. You go into the [NCAA transfer] portal, which we all know he’s in. That’s the extent of it, and that’s the conversation we’ve had.”
Fields, from Kennesaw, Georgia, is expected to apply for a hardship waiver from the NCAA. If granted, the waiver would make him eligible to play in the 2019 season.
For now, Smart said Fields is practicing with the Bulldogs and preparing to play No. 15 Texas in the Sugar Bowl (8:45 p.m. ET Jan. 1 on ESPN).
Fields completed 27 of 39 passes for 328 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions in 12 games this season. He was used sporadically throughout games, with much of his action coming in mop-up duty.
“I’m pleased with his work towards Texas, that he’s out there with us and has a really good demeanor,” Smart said. “He’s getting good reps and providing good competition.”
Smart said Fields’ potential transfer won’t affect whether he plays against the Longhorns.
“No, we’re trying to figure out how to beat Texas,” Smart said. “We’re going to do everything we can to beat Texas and whatever that instills for a game plan. He decided he wanted to play in the Sugar Bowl, and I told him absolutely, we’d love you to play in the Sugar Bowl. We want you there. He’s come out to work, do that and support his teammates.”
If Fields transfers, Georgia will have only one scholarship quarterback on its roster: sophomore Jake Fromm, who has a 23-4 record as a starter.
The Bulldogs flipped quarterback Dwan Mathis of Oak Park, Michigan, from Ohio State on the opening day of the early signing period on Wednesday. Mathis, who is the No. 299 prospect overall in the ESPN 300, previously committed to Iowa State, Michigan State and Ohio State during his whirlwind recruitment.
The Bulldogs have a verbal commitment from dual-threat quarterback John Rhys Plumlee of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the No. 148 prospect in the ESPN 300. However, it is unclear if Plumlee will sign with Georgia during the early signing period, which ends Friday.
Georgia also added former walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett, who left the team in the spring and played this past season at Jones County (Mississippi) Community College.
Smart said Fields’ uncertain future with the team caused the Bulldogs to pursue another quarterback in this recruiting cycle.
“That had an impact. Obviously, we have to recruit quarterbacks every year,” the coach said. “You’ve got to keep quarterbacks in your program, and as you know, we were deficient at quarterback the last couple of years. We had only two on scholarship last year. Ultimately, we’d like to have four scholarship quarterbacks in our program. That’s really hard to do nowadays because it’s so volatile and they leave so often.”