Lions get verbal from Georgia QB

By Philip Cmor

pcmor@altoonamirror.com

There were reports that Penn State might have been knocked out of the driver’s seat in the eyes of blue-chip junior quarterback Justin Fields after in-state Georgia came through with a scholarship offer in mid-November.

Apparently the reports of the Nittany Lions’ demise were greatly exaggerated.

Fields, 247Sports No. 100 overall prospect and fourth-rated dual-threat signal-caller in the 2018 recruiting class, verbally committed to Penn State on Wednesday afternoon.

Fields’ decision adds further steam to Penn State’s recently rolling fortunes. The Lions got a verbal from Zack Kuntz, the top-ranked tight end in the junior class, and four-star New Jersey defensive tackle Fred Hansard over the weekend. More and more recruiting analysts also seem to be buying into the idea that five-star defensive end Josh Kaindoh will pick Penn State over Florida State and Alabama when he makes his announcement at the Under Armour All-American game on Jan. 1.

Fields is the sixth player to commit to Penn State for next year. With his addition, the Lions’ 2018 class now has the top team ranking in the country.

“I thank God for giving me the talent and opportunity to play one of the greatest games on earth,” Fields posted on his Twitter page. “I was to thank all of the great universities and college coaches that recruited me. At this time, I am committing to play football at The Pennsylvania State University. #WeAre.”

The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Fields is considered virtually the ideal fit for the read-option offense Penn State prefers to run with James Franklin as coach. He just completed a season in which he led Harrison High School to a 10-2 record by completing 69 percent of his passes for 2,253 yards and rushing for 977 yards.

He accounted for 32 touchdowns.

“Fields is an exciting player to watch. He is a big quarterback who is an athlete. He is a big arm and the ball comes out hot,” Scout.com national analyst Chad Simmons wrote in an evaluation. He throws a beautiful deep ball, and he has shown the ability to dump the ball off to the flats and to throw screen passes. Where he needs to improve most in that area is the intermediate routes.

“What you cannot coach is how he is dynamic with his legs. He plays baseball, he is an athlete and he is one who can hurt defenses with his strong right arm or his legs. He has the Cameron Newton type of frame. He comes across as a great leader, he has fun when he plays and he is only going to get better as he refines his fundamentals as a passer.”

Fields had been to Penn State on a couple of unofficial visits this season, eye-opening because he was traveling from Georgia on his own dime. Fields was in for the Kent State and Iowa games. He also camped at Penn State in July.

However, Nittany Lion fans thought all the work they had done might have been for naught when the Bulldogs finally offered Fields a scholarship on Nov. 18.

According to Simmons, though, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia Tech rounded out Fields’ top four at the time of his decision.

Verbal commitments are not binding, so Penn State still will have to work to get Fields to sign a letter-of-intent or enroll in more than a year from now. If Fields does wind up sticking with the Lions, he will join what looks like a very deep, talented quarterback room: Trace McSorley will be heading into his senior year, backed up by current freshman Tommy Stevens, redshirt freshman Jake Zembiec and incoming four-star recruit Sean Clifford.

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