After not receiving a snap against Florida, the routine was the same for Georgia’s Justin Fields in Saturday’s win over Kentucky. In the middle of a drive, the freshman would enter to replace starter Jake Fromm, then jog back to the sideline.
But there were a couple of differences.
First, Fields took consecutive snaps for the first time in recent memory. It was almost a “sound the sirens” moment that the dual-threat quarterback was given more than one play at a time. Secondly, most of the play calls for Fields were seemingly designed runs.
There may have actually been a plan for Georgia’s quarterback rotation in the 34-17 win over Kentucky.
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Fields finished with six carries for 26 yards — all of which came in the second half. The only carry not resulting in positive yardage was a 1-yard loss when Fields dropped back for a pass.
When asked about quarterbacks, Fields was the first name out of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart’s mouth. No, Fromm didn’t have a bad day as he finished 14-of-20 with a touchdown.
“I want to give some credit to those two quarterbacks,” Smart said in his on-field interview with CBS. “Justin Fields comes in the game and makes some huge plays for us. He had one of his best weeks of practice.”
Fields’ work was part of a 331-yard rushing performance, and while his longest carry went for only nine yards, it put Georgia in position for Rodrigo Blankenship to convert a 38-yard field goal and widen the margin to three scores.
Fromm has been in public approval of Georgia’s use of the quarterback system, which has been loosely-implemented throughout the season. Now, as Fields was given a bigger role to run himself rather than giving a few handoffs to the running back, a sense of continuity may be growing between them.
“It’s another way to run the football,” Fromm said after the game. “[Fields] does an awesome job of it and finding extra yards in places. We have another option to utilize the running game.”
But is that all Fields will do?
The stat line says yes. His drop-back attempt against Kentucky would’ve been his first pass since Oct. 6 at Vanderbilt in which he went 3-of-6 for 53 yards.
Smart, on the other hand, leaves an opening for his passing abilities. Throughout the season, remember, Fields was given credit by teammates for a “cannon” of an arm.
“Justin doesn’t have to come in just to run the ball,” Smart said. “The more roles we give him to benefit our team, I think it helps us. He’s also 230 pounds, too. So he presents a lot of issues for a defensive unit, and I know that from having to coach against guys like Justin.”
The other quarterbacks Smart has had to coach against include former Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, Alabama sophomore Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia Tech senior TaQuon Marshall. Each of them have given Smart — and many other coaches — a heap of trouble.
Therefore, Smart is persistent in his belief that Fields isn’t in a run-only role. But against the top teams, there hasn’t been a semblance of a passing attack from the freshman — some of which could be attributed to a combined 353 yards and four touchdowns over two games for Fromm.
Will it be seen?
“He throws the ball really well,” running back Elijah Holyfield said. “I think he’ll be able to show it sometime soon, I’m sure.”