Justin Fields is officially a member of the Elite 11 fraternity. The 5-star Penn State quarterback commit, fresh off a three-day competition at Elite 11 finals in Los Angeles, received public confirmation of his inclusion Monday morning via a collaborative video with Bleacher Report.
— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) June 5, 2017
Fields, a 6-foot-3, 221-pound prospect from Harrison (Kennesaw, Ga.) High School, was selected from a collection of 25 finalists. He and 11 others advance to The Opening, an annual recruit showcase held June 28-July 3 in Beaverton, Ore., at Nike’s world headquarters.
These dozen passers will be split among six 7-on-7 teams for a star-studded tournament in the Pacific Northwest. Fields, ranked No. 2 among finalists by the Elite 11 coaching staff entering Sunday action, should be considered a top contender for Elite 11 MVP honors when that award is announced at the conclusion of The Opening.
He joins a few recent Penn State pledges who became Elite 11 alumni. The list includes Sean Clifford (2016), Christian Hackenberg (2012) and Brandon Wimbush (2014), who later flipped his commitment to Notre Dame.
Notable Elite 11 alumni on the national scene include Andrew Luck, Deshaun Watson and Jameis Winston.
“It’s an honor to join this group of quarterbacks who’ve gone on to have a lot of success in college and the NFL,” Clifford told me last summer. “I think it’s an amazing thing to be a part of, and I’ll take all the advice with me to the next level. It should definitely help when I get to campus.”
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) June 5, 2016
The St. Xavier (Cincinnati) standout led his team to a state title last season and is now an incoming Nittany Lions freshman. Next year, if things go according to plan, he will welcome Fields into the Penn State quarterback room.
Despite the presence of Clifford, 2017 spring game offensive MVP Tommy Stevens and possibly incumbent starter Trace McSorley, Fields isn’t intimidated. The Peach State playmaker aims to seize an early opportunity for snaps, though he said he understands some things aren’t entirely in his control.
“That’s the goal, but Trace is there and he’s a great quarterback,” Fields told Greg Biggins of Scout.com on Saturday. “He might leave [after the 2017 season], he might not. So if he stays, then no big deal. I just get to learn from him, redshirt and have the opportunity to start [in 2019].”
The Elite 11 staff throws a lot at competitors during a busy weekend in Los Angeles. From detailed playbook studies and demanding physical conditioning to discussions on social life and leadership, it’s essentially cramming a Ph.D. knowledge at the position into a 72-hour span.
— Justin Fields (@justnfields) June 3, 2017
Fields arrived in Los Angeles fresh off a significant bump in 247Sports’ composite rankings. Recent industry updates from sites such as 247Sports and Rivals sent him surging to No. 6 overall and No. 2 among quarterback recruits, trailing only fellow Elite 11 MVP candidate Trevor Lawrence.
“What’s not to like?” SBNation recruiting analyst Bud Elliott wrote about Fields while at the Elite 11 finals. “A sharp guy, big arm, mechanics that are better than you’d expect from someone who also plays a lot of baseball, and elite athleticism.”
Praise also came from 247Sports analyst Luke Stampini, who noted Fields’ devastating deep-ball ability.
“When asked to drive the ball down the field, Fields separated from the pack quickly with dime after dime on fades and corner routes,” he wrote. “While other quarterbacks struggled, Fields appeared to thrive stretching the field vertically.”
Despite the continuous accolades, Fields found himself searching inward for more consistency following his pro-day workout on Saturday .
“I wasn’t pleased with my performance at all,” he told Biggins. “The coaches might have been pleased, but me, I’m kind of a perfectionist so of course I want every throw to be perfect. So in my book, I just have to get better and improve on that.”
Justin Fields, just a ball of energy on the Pro Day, has to harness that energy to finish throws. Anticipation was strong.
— Michael Felder (@InTheBleachers) June 4, 2017
Fields is undoubtedly a dedicated student of the game, an aspect that tends to shine during Elite 11 competition. Surrounded by a staff led by Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer and an accomplished group of camp counselors that included McSorley and Josh Rosen (UCLA), young quarterbacks aren’t going to get by on athleticism alone.
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) June 4, 2017
Fields will now focus on preparing for The Opening, which features more than 100 top-tier recruits on both sides of the ball. The event is extremely competitive and features a large group of highly regarded coaching assistants.
During recent years, that list has included Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman, Miami Dolphins DT Ndamukong Suh and three-time Super Bowl champion Willie McGinest. Camp counselors are also called upon from the college ranks, as LSU RB Leonard Fournette, Alabama TE O.J. Howard, Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey and other eventual first-round NFL draft selections filled those roles in 2016.
Zack Kuntz, a 4-star tight end who also is pledged to Penn State, received an invitation to the event. However, he told Land of 10 on Sunday that he will not attend The Opening due to a family obligation.
“If they put us all on the same team, it would be huge to play together for the first time,” Shorter said upon receiving his invitation in April. “We can really see how each other work on the field, and it’s going to build great chemistry overall. When we get to campus next year, we’ll already know each other well because of that experience.”
It’s also an opportunity for Fields & Co. to target uncommitted prospects. Expect them to implement peer recruiting with players such as DT PJ Mustipher, DE Micah Parsons and OT Rasheed Walker.
Following in the footsteps of Clifford and Hackenberg, while spending time under the tutelage of McSorley, Fields finds himself in good company among Penn State quarterbacks. Interest in Fields continues to increase from schools such as Auburn, Florida, Georgia and LSU, but a verbal pledge issued last December remains intact at the start of summer.
Given his increased knowledge of quarterback play and a highly productive offseason schedule, Fields should be primed for a career-best campaign this fall. He tallied 2,770 passing yards, 1,176 rushing yards and 38 total touchdowns in 2016, per MaxPreps.
— Justin Fields (@justnfields) June 5, 2017