LSU turned in a monster haul of visitors for its home opener against Chattanooga over the weekend. No visitor was bigger than the 5-star quarterback on hand.
Justin Fields, the nation’s No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018, not only visited LSU for the first time but made it his first official visit. The Georgia native is expected to take advantage of all five of his visits. After a recent push from the Tigers’ coaching staff, they were able to lure him and his family on campus quickly.
It paid dividends, too.
Fields and his parents flew into Baton Rouge from Atlanta on Friday. Some members of the LSU coaching staff were on the road, including head coach Ed Orgeron, who was on a helicopter with Mickey Joseph in Algiers. Still, Orgeron was there to welcome Fields to campus and check back in upon his return. It is also worth noting that offensive coordinator Matt Canada, Fields’ primary recruiter who has had a relationship with the quarterback dating back to his time at Pitt, remained on campus with the family.
The official visit continued into Saturday as Fields got a taste of what game day is like on the Bayou. The fans provided extra energy as they rushed to campus to tailgate and let the Under Armour All-American know he was wanted at LSU.
Canada, Fields and his parents were over both the offensive blueprint and the depth chart at LSU. It is no coincidence that Canada dialed up some more passing plays on Saturday night against Chattanooga than the Saturday prior in the season opener against BYU. Canada called a balanced game, but showed signs of the downfield passing attack evident by Drake Davis’ 36-yard touchdown and Stephen Sullivan’s 50-50 ball on the fade. He also put true freshman Myles Brennan into the game to show he isn’t afraid of letting young players lead the offense.
Canada was also in Fields’ ear about the impending depth chart at LSU. Danny Etling will be elsewhere come January, leaving Brennan and fellow freshman Lowell Narcisse as the only two quarterbacks on the roster to compete for the starting job. There is no telling what the future holds for Justin McMillan, who has yet to suit up for the team through two weeks.
LSU’s best selling point for Fields or any other quarterback for that matter is opportunity. We know that UGA, Florida State and Auburn are all power players for the 5-star passer. Injuries to Jacob Eason and Deondre Francois on Sept. 2 thrust Jake From and James Blackman into starting roles earlier than anticipated. That works in LSU’s favor. At Auburn, Jarrett Stidham is engraved as the starter under center, with 2018 quarterback commitment Joey Gatewood drawing a ton of praise from the staff.
That, too, bodes well for LSU’s chances.
Sources close to Fields’ inner circle confirmed that the family is examining the path to the field closely in this decision-making process. LSU may check that box better than UGA, Florida State or Auburn. That’s why the Tigers should be considered in that exclusive group of four schools moving forward.
Fields was joined in Baton Rouge by an array of other notable recruits. Elite 4-star wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase was in the stands. As was tight end commitment Zach Sheffer and top-ranked defensive back pledge Kelvin Joseph. They all watched LSU’s new-look offense post 45 points and 454 yards in the blowout victory. There was a method to the madness of getting the most sought-after quarterback in the nation on campus at the same time as one of LSU’s most wanted wide receiver targets. Make no mistake about it.
LSU’s offense and quarterback depth chart are the main reasons why the Tigers needed to be taken seriously as a contender for Fields. They still may trail UGA and Florida State, and do not discount Auburn out of the race just yet either. What works in those other three schools’ favor is proximity to the quarterback’s home in Kennesaw, Ga. Remember that Fields’ sister attends school at UGA. Both Auburn and Florida State are short drives away, and sources contend that distance is a major factor in Fields’ decision. Essentially, that’s what led to a divorce between the 5-star quarterback and Penn State.
The LSU coaching staff discussed as much with Fields and his parents on Sunday before he returned home to Georgia. The Tigers have reeled in big fish from the Peach State in recent recruiting cycles, including Arden Key back in 2015. That’s been a staple of Orgeron’s out-of-state recruiting and the head coach has made it known that he and his staff will make the transition to Louisiana as smooth as possible.
That fact did not go unnoticed by Fields or his parents.
Moving forward, expect Fields to continue making visits, especially to the three aforementioned schools. Do not expect the quarterback to release a top three, a top four or top five, or to even give a heads up that he is ready to make a decision when he’s ready.
Auburn, Florida State and UGA will all host Fields for an official visit. So will maybe Alabama, Southern Cal or another team as he utilizes all five.
LSU may not have overtaken UGA or Florida State as a leading school, but it put itself in the conversation moving forward. The Fields family knows what is available to him in Baton Rouge and how quickly he could see the field potentially. If he is OK with the distance factor, it should certainly bolster the Tigers’ chances of landing the All-American. He sees that Chase, Devonta Jason and Terrace Marshall Jr. are top wide receiver targets and that LSU could boast a rather talented surrounding cast for the foreseeable future in a balanced offensive tackle that he is comfortable with.
Don’t consider LSU as a favorite, but a contender for Fields. Any return visits will work in the staff’s favor because they will be a sign that he’s anxious for even more familiarity with the campus, the coaches and potential teammates there.