(Via Jeff Blake/USA Today Sports)
Justin Fields has announced that he will transfer from Georgia. There's a couple reasons why he would do this, including the fact that Kirby Smart called a fake punt on midfield with the SEC title on the line. Unlike Tua Tagovailoa and even Jake Fromm, Fields was never able to unseat the incumbent and lead them to a National Championship or an SEC Championship or even just hold down the starting job. So, where could he end up going?
It's Alabama. What else is there to say? Yes, they already have a superstar quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa, but he's almost certainly moving on to the NFL as a first round pick after his junior season. However, there's two noteworthy things about Alabama: along with Georgia and LSU, Fields took one of his three official visits to Alabama, and because he played 12 games already, that means he would have to redshirt once he transfers, no matter where he goes. So, Nick Saban would have four scholarship quarterbacks for the next four seasons. Alabama would go from the greatest college football quarterback since Vince Young and replace him with arguably the greatest high school football quarterback since Vince Young. Scary thought for college defensive coordinators.
FSU has fallen from grace ever since Deondre Francois suffered a knee injury against Alabama in 2017. Francois has been disappointing throughout 2018, throwing only three more touchdowns than interceptions. The team as a whole watched its bowl streak end after 36 years. But Francois isn't the guy who could possibly block Fields. James Blackman is. While Fields is more talented than Blackman, Blackman has shown that he works well in Willie Taggart’s system against NC State, and he retained a year of eligibility in the process. By the time his redshirt is burned, he could be looking at a situation similar to the one he's transferring away from. It just doesn't make sense for him to transfer to a team that's both far from contending for National Championships where he wouldn't even be guaranteed a solid chance at the starting job once he gets there.
After hiring Ed Orgeron, LSU football has taken off. Just this year alone, they were able to beat then-#8 Miami, then-#7 Auburn, then-#22 Mississippi State, and then-#2 Georgia. Their three losses were to #10 Florida, #1 Alabama, and #19 Texas A&M in seven overtimes. They accomplished 9-3 and a New Year's Six bowl without a great quarterback, too. Joe Burrow has been serviceable after his transfer in from Ohio State, but at the same time, he only passed for 2500 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games. While his rushing stats were solid with 375 yards and 7 touchdowns, that's still not spectacular. But with Burrow being a redshirt junior, his next season will be his last, meaning that after Fields took one of his three official visits to LSU when he was in high school, he'd take over with three years of eligibility left.
Another one of his potential destinations per ESPN, Ohio State is only a few years removed from having three incredible quarterbacks all misused. Even without Fields, they have Dwayne Haskins, a Heisman finalist who is going to the NFL either this year or next year at the latest. On the surface, this makes sense for Fields, especially if Haskins decides to stay one more year in Columbus. But there's one reason why Fields to Ohio State wouldn't make sense: Tate Martell. Martell committed to Ohio State two years ago and since then has only been used sparingly. With three years of eligibility remaining, Martell can still carve out his own legacy at Ohio State and block Fields from taking over as the starter, unless he himself transfers, which is a possibility if Haskins stays for one more year. If he does, that opens a ton of new possibilities. Haskins could opt to exhaust all of his eligibility, which means Fields would not be the favorite for the starting job, meaning that he would likely try to transfer again.
One of the most likely destinations for Fields according to ESPN, Oklahoma went from Heisman winner Baker Mayfield to fake Heisman winner Kyler Murray and just kept chugging along, making another College Football Playoff. With Murray leaving for the NFL, Major League Baseball, or both, Oklahoma could be looking for their future quarterback. While Austin Kendall is a dark horse Heisman candidate to some, Kendall is not nearly as good as Fields. Kendall will also be a redshirt junior next season, and could choose to transfer somewhere else as he'd be immediately eligible. The top 2019 quarterback, Spencer Rattler, also is an Oklahoma commit, meaning that Fields would be stuck in a situation similar to the one he was in at Georgia if he transfers to Oklahoma.
In recent years, Penn State is good with ahletic quarterbacks. Just look at Trace McSorley for proof. But they're losing him after the Citrus Bowl, and they're losing Tommy Stevens after next season. That's when Fields would come in. A quarterback who is much more talented than both McSorley and Stevens would lead Penn State to greater heights than either of them ever could, even if Fields isn't as good running as either of them are. Around him offensively, yes, Miles Sanders would be gone by then, but they'll still have Ricky Slade at running back. KJ Hamler would return for two seasons with Fields, and that's after he led the team in receiving yards this season. Also having two seasons would be Pat Freiermuth, a after he led the team in touchdowns this year. Jahan Dotson is set to take on a much bigger role, in the passing game as well, especially if Fields transfers to Happy Valley.
Syracuse is a dark horse candidate. They won 9 games this year, their first winning season since 2013, and got ranked for the first time since 2001. Two of their three losses came to teams in the Playoff right now, and the other came against a surprisingly good Pitt team. With Eric Dungey graduating, Fields could probably take the starting job away from Tommy Devito after his redshirt year. While Jamal Custis and Sean Riley will be gone, Nykeim Johnson and Taj Harris will be ready to take over by the time Fields is eligible. He could turn the Orangemen into a contender in the ACC. Dino Babers built Syracuse on the legs of Dungey, but with Fields, he could bring back the glory days of Donovan McNabb. Dungey may fit the system better now, but in two seasons, there's no doubt Fields could completely change the offense for the better.
With Will Grier declaring for the NFL, West Virginia’s quarterback job is wide open. Not only that, but West Virginia's entire offense will need retooling. Their top three receivers will be gone before Fields can even take a snap in Morgantown. So will their top two running backs. Despite that though, Fields would tear up the Big 12. A quarterback with his arm, escapability, and athleticism would easily be their best since Pat White. And in a conference with no defense? He could take them to the Playoff. West Virginia did offer Fields in high school, but then again, so did most schools. Fields will have to deal with an entirely new offense, one that's incredibly young, that he'd have to learn how to play with and lead if he made the move to West Virginia. Could he do it? He very well could. But it would be such a big transition that it would take some time for him to get used to it.
Where is he going after all this? Well, because of Tate Martell and Spencer Rattler, Ohio State and Oklahoma are out of it. West Virginia has too much offensive turnover, so there's no way Fields can be bailed out if he has a bad game, so they're out of it too. Despite Syracuse having their best season in nearly two decades, they will never get the bigtime recruits because they'll always be in the shadow of their basketball program. They're out. The thought of Justin Fields replacing Tua Tagovailoa is exciting for Alabama fans and terrifying for the rest of college football, but it doesn't seem likely that he'll transfer within the SEC, so that eliminates Alabama and LSU. Who's left?
By transferring to Penn State, not only will he be the frontrunner for the starting job, but for at least his first two seasons he'll have a lot of the same weapons who helped contribute this year, as well as some new recruits he can help bring in.