If you have spent any time on Twitter, Florida Gators message boards, or just living anywhere near a sports fan – then you will know that about six football programs are living on the edge of their seats hoping for a commitment from 5-star quarterback Justin Fields. Fields, Mr. All-Everything on the camp circuit, is considering Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, and Penn State after backing off a seven-month commitment to Penn State.
After Fields de-committed from Penn State, he quickly visited Auburn, Georgia, Florida State, and Florida and fans expected a quick commitment, particularly because he had visited each school previously. Both Florida State and Florida considered themselves on “commitment watch” when Fields visited a few weeks ago.
For the last decade and a half or so, there has been an expectation, among fans and coaching staffs, the quarterback of a class should commit early. Most view quarterbacks as the lynchpin to a recruiting class, both creating a buzz and being a vocal recruiter, or with the loss of a quarterback recruit a class can fall apart.
With that expectation from fans and coaches to commit early, why is Justin Fields taking his time saying that he will likely make his decision in the fall after a number of visits, which means that a decision could drag into late fall?
Obviously, this decision is his and his alone, but lets look at the reasons why Fields is taking his time and what it means for the Florida Gators.
Offensive Production: It is no secret that of those that Fields is considering, Florida has had the worst offensive production over the last two years, hell, last six years. Florida hasn’t had a 3,000 yard passing offense since 2009 and ranked 73rd last season in passing offense. While Florida is expected to have their best wide receiving corp in years this upcoming season, Florida’s struggle to get them the ball in the past has hampered opinions of Jim McElwain’s offense. If Malik Zaire and/or Feleipe Franks can display a solid command of the offense and showcase their coaching abilities, Fields may be able to check the box that McElwain and Nussmeier can develop him into an NFL quarterback. Fortunately for the Gators, Auburn, Florida State, and Georgia all have offensive issues.
Potential Turnover: It is no secret that Jim McElwain and Doug Nussmeier have struggled on offensive production compared to their billing when hired and if Florida doesn’t see substantial improvement in offensive categories, there could be turnover at the offensive coordinator position and potentially a warm seat under Jim McElwain. And while we all believe that players should commit to schools and not coaching staffs, the relationships that are created make it difficult to commit solely to a school. With Alabama, Georgia, and Florida State likely not making changes soon, that leaves Auburn and Florida has really the only potential schools with changes imminent, at least at the offensive coordinator position.
Enjoying the Recruiting Process: Justin Fields went from begging Mercer University for an offer to committing to Penn State in less than nine months and his recruitment has exploded since. Fields, although seemingly quite bashful, seems to be enjoying his recruiting process and the attention that he is getting. He will be able to take and enjoy his visits and freedom, while being able to explore college campuses all over the south.
Methodical Thought Process: Justin Fields, with a 3.9 GPA and 29 ACT score, is looking at more than just football. Academically, Fields is likely looking at potential academic programs that allow him to thrive in the classroom. From a support standpoint, Fields will be looking at tutoring, academic support both on-campus and when traveling, and being surrounded by a team that will enable his success off the field. This is not just a football decision for Fields, this is a life decision that affects each potential facet of his life – one that shouldn’t be forced by a fan base or coaching staff.
There is a debate about how long Fields will wait and what will push him over the commitment ledge – and frankly, no one knows. You won’t find it on a message board or on Twitter, and it should not be expected soon, which does not mean it is necessarily bad news for the Gators. In fact, a display of offensive prowess by the Gators could be the tipping point, or maybe it won’t. Maybe it has more to do with academics and the school that puts him in the best position to be successful long term.
Until we know, embrace the debate, enjoy the ride, and accept that Justin Fields is, and should be, taking his time.