Justin Fields has long been regarded as one of the top quarterback recruits in the country and that notion has only been furthered following a great junior season at Kennesaw (Ga.) Harrison High and head-turning performances at many spring and summer events, including the Elite 11 Finals over the weekend (video above).
Anytime a prospect like that is on the open market, as he now is after announcing his decommitment from Penn State Tuesday, it quickly becomes the premiere storyline in the college football recruiting world.
There isn't a shortage of suitors for Fields so Scout looked to get the latest from our insiders on the ground at many of the potential destinations for the top passer, who does still include Penn State among the candidates still in the mix for his services.
Perhaps the program with the biggest buzz following the news is the Florida Gators.
"Florida has been heavily pursuing Justin Fields since the beginning of this year," FightinGators.com's Jacquie Franciulli said. "Although committed to Penn State at the time, Fields and his family have remained in contact with the Gators staff and Jim McElwain and company have not been shy in telling the signal caller that he was their guy. In the last two months, many around the program have felt that the tide was turning towards Florida and Fields is expected to visit soon.
"When the Georgia native visits, you can bet the Florida staff will hope to have another member of their class sealed right then."
Fields has been reluctant to discuss other programs in much detail throughout 2017, asking Scout on multiple occasions to focus on-record conversations around Penn State from the recruiting perspective. But many in the South have recognized pushes from the Gators, Florida State Seminoles, Alabama Crimson Tide and several others.
But one theme in the 2018 class with No. 1 overall prospect Trevor Lawrence headed to Clemson and fellow Peach State QB prospect Emory Jones committed to Ohio State, combined with Fields to Penn State at the time, was the lack of staying power for the Georgia Bulldogs following the program landing Scout five-stars Jacob Eason and Jake Fromm in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Several other blue-chip passers within state lines are departing the state for college but with Fields back on the market there won't be a lack of effort from Kirby Smart's end.
"It's pretty simple," DawgPost.com's Dean Legge said. "They've been after a dual-threat guy for two classes. He's in- state and now he's available. Needless to say picking up a third elite QB in three classes is rather difficult. UGA has a long way to go to move and get him.
"But I can assure you they are going to be moving hard to do anything to get him to take another hard look at him. They want a dual guy. Period."
If Florida held the most buzz immediately following Fields' decommitment announcement, it was followed closely by the Auburn Tigers. The Jarrett Stidham hype could be followed by a standout 2017 season, meaning the former Scout five-star may head to the NFL following this initial AU campaign. The Tigers have had attrition at the position behind Stidham over the last several months, increasing the need for another quarterback recruit to pair with current commitment Joey Gatewood.
"Even with Gatewood already committed in the 2018 class, the Auburn Tigers are definitely pursuing Justin Fields with a huge need for two quarterbacks in this class," AUTigers.com's Jason Caldwell said. "Fields has been a priority recruit for the Tigers since new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey arrived on campus in January. Something working in Auburn's favor could be that Fields' 7-on-7 coach is former Auburn Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton."
Auburn has perhaps made up the most ground in the shortest amount of time from the spring evaluation period and beyond.
Another program which spent considerable time at Harrison High was the LSU Tigers.
"The domino in LSU's quarterback search that they've been waiting on for a while has fallen," Billy Embody, publisher of TigerBlitz.com said. "While four-star QB Justin Rogers was a target before committing to TCU, Justin Fields has been the one they've been aggressively pursuing for the last two months. Rogers had been pegged to the Horned Frogs for a while so offensive coordinator Matt Canada made two trips to watch Fields at practice in Georgia.
"Canada has been recruiting Fields for quite some time now at his previous stops. While other schools have come to onlookers' mind for Fields, LSU might be the dark horse that could land him. He'd have an opportunity to come in and compete for the starting job after Danny Etling departs and even though he's said that's not a big deal, he might very well be able to win the job. LSU signed two All-Americans in the 2017 class, so the path to the field won't be easy."
The Fields news wasn't the only major development on the Tigers' QB board this week.
"With Grant Gunnell committing to Texas A&M early for the 2019 cycle, LSU is back in a position where the Tigers need Fields even more," Embody said. "The push will come hard from LSU and they're going all out on landing him."
Although the decommitment from Penn State was not necessarily a surprise move from Fields, it likely establishes him as the most coveted uncommitted recruit in the entire class of 2018. With his stock still on the rise, which will be reflected in Scout's updated rankings in the coming days, it wouldn't surprise to see other programs attempt to jump in the mix for the rising senior prospect.
Stay with Scout for the latest.