Five-star quarterback decommits from PSU

It’s looking like 2018 could be a special recruiting class for Penn State football, but when you are recruiting big-time prospects, there’s big-time competition, and that can lead to big-time upheaval.

That’s what happened on Tuesday night, as five-star quarterback Justin Fields of Georgia — the unquestioned centerpiece of this year’s class even before top-five overall player Micah Parsons, the defensive end from Harrisburg, decommitted — announced via social media that he was no longer pledged to the Nittany Lions.

“After many hours of prayer and discussion with my family, I have decided to decommit from Penn State University and reopen my recruitment,” Fields said.

“This is probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make.”

And one that figures to have a tremendous impact on whether Penn State’s class is good or great, too: Quarterbacks are that important not only on the field, but often in gathering other elite talent that wants to play with them.

The Lions had identified the Harrison High School standout early in the process, and they built a strong enough relationship to earn his commitment on Dec. 1.

Since then, Fields has blown up, being named MVP at The Opening in Orlando, Fla. and being elevated to five-star status. He just had an impressive showing at the Elite 11 quarterback combine over the weekend.

However, as Fields has looked more and more impressive, more and more other colleges have thrown their hats in the ring and offered scholarships. Alabama, Baylor, Texas, Florida State and Florida all have jumped into the picture since mid-January.

It appears Florida has made the most headway, and now a number of recruiting analysts think he could wind up in Gainesville. In recent weeks, Fields has said all the right things in regards to his commitment to Penn State, although some reporters thought he might reopen things. Still, Tuesday’s announcement was considered a surprise.

“I know that I will disappoint some people with my decision and for that I apologize,” Fields said.

Fields is considered virtually a perfect fit for offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s system. One of the big issues, though, might be speculation that Moorhead will be in line to leave University Park for a head coaching job if the Lion offense produces this fall in a similar fashion to how it performed on its way to a Big Ten championship in 2016.

Fields could have wound up at Penn State and never played for Moorhead.

Reportedly, the Lion coaching staff realized that could be an issue and tried to address it and ease any concerns Fields might have had.

Fields is the third player to decommit from this class, which now has seen its two highest-rated members bolt, with Parsons leaving the fold in April after being committed for more than a year. Fields said Penn State remains among his top schools, but few players who decommit eventually recommit to that program.

“My decision to reopen my recruitment is in no way a reflection of any deficiencies of PSU, its coaches, players or fans. I still believe that PSU is a great academic and athletic opportunity for any student athlete,” Fields said.

Even if Fields doesn’t wind up at Penn State, the cupboard is far from empty, with Trace McSorley, Tommy Stevens and Jake Zembiec all on campus with multiple years of eligibility remaining and four-star 2017 signee Sean Clifford about to join the Nittany Lions’ quarterback room.

It’s believed, however, Penn State will want to have a quarterback in this class.

The Nittany Lions still are in the top five in the 247Sports team rankings.