QB Fields shows off dual-threat skills in Dogs' spring game
By CHARLES ODUM
ATHENS, Ga. (AP) A crowd of more than 82,000 cheered when Justin Fields jogged onto the field for the first time at Sanford Stadium at Georgia's G-Day spring game on Saturday.
There were more reasons in the scrimmage to cheer for the freshman dual-threat quarterback who was the biggest name in Georgia's top-ranked signing class .
Fields enrolled early to compete with returning starter Jake Fromm, who remains the favorite to keep his job. Fields showed why he could be valuable in a backup role if he doesn't win the starting job.
Fields had the longest run of the day, a 22-yarder. Quarterbacks were not allowed to be tackled. If not for the touch-tackle rule on quarterbacks that also contributed to Fields being sacked seven times, he might have had more long runs. Thanks to the sacks, he finished with a net gain of only three yards on 12 carries.
Fields (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) completed 18 of 33 passes for 207 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His distinguishing strength may be his ability to create big plays as a runner.
"He's a pretty big guy," said senior cornerback Deandre Baker. "In practice we compare him to Cam Newton. He's going to be pretty dangerous running and throwing."
Fromm completed 19 of 38 passes for 200 yards, including a late 57-yard scoring pass to Riley Ridley. Fromm threw two interceptions, including one by Baker returned 32 yards for the only touchdown of the first half.
The Fields-led Black team, which included Georgia's No. 1 defense, beat Fromm's Red team, with the No. 1 offense, 21-13.
Fromm and the Bulldogs leaned heavily on a running game led by tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel to win the 2017 Southeastern Conference championship before a national championship game loss to Alabama .
Fromm will be the heavy favorite to open the 2018 season as the starter, but the competition with Fields will continue in fall practice.
"You're obviously buddies with the guys in the (quarterback) room," Fromm said. "You see them, you hang out with them but at the end of the day we're also competing for a job and trying to compete the best way we can and really push each other."
Fields used spring practice to demonstrate why he was regarded as one of the nation's top quarterback recruits.
"He's grown," said Georgia coach Kirby Smart of Fields. "He's gotten better. He's more comfortable with the offense, but I'll be honest I never felt like he was behind with the offense from day one. He's done such a good job of growing and learning."
Smart said it was important to remember Fields was passing against Georgia's second-team defense while Fromm worked against the starters. Still, even Smart acknowledged Fields brings new skills to the position.
"He's able to move around in the pocket and create some things when things break down," Smart said.
Last spring, it was Fromm who made the strong first impression as a freshman. Jacob Eason still started the 2017 opening game against Appalachian State before spraining his left knee in the first quarter. Fromm stepped in never lost the job. Eason has transferred to Washington.
Smart does not allow freshmen to speak with reporters.
D'Andre Swift, possibly the favorite to start at running back, was held out with a groin injury. Freshman Zamir White enrolled early but is still recovering from right knee surgery. James Cook will enroll this summer.
Michel and Chubb, wearing their Georgia jerseys, drew big cheers when they walked onto the field before the game, carrying the Rose Bowl trophy from the Bulldogs' playoff win over Oklahoma.
The attendance was 82,184, with the west end zone seats closed for the offseason construction of a new locker room, recruiting lounge and scoreboard. It was Georgia's second-highest turnout for a spring game, behind the 93,000 sellout in 2016.
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Updated April 21, 2018