QB Justin Fields exploring transfer but could still return to Georgia

Georgia freshman quarterback Justin Fields is exploring the possibility of transferring, though he hasn't yet told the Bulldogs' coaching staff that he's leaving, sources told ESPN.

Fields, the No. 1 recruit in the 2018 ESPN 300, is looking into whether to transfer to another school in January, instead of possibly spending the next two seasons behind starter Jake Fromm.

Fields was included in the NCAA's transfer portal on Tuesday, which allows other programs to communicate with him about transferring to another school.

Unless Fields can obtain a hardship waiver from the NCAA, he would have to sit out the 2019 season under transfer rules.

A source told ESPN that Fields practiced Monday and is expected to play with the No. 5 Bulldogs against No. 15 Texas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day (8:45 p.m. ET, ESPN).

"[Fields transferring] is a possibility, but we expect him to play in the Sugar Bowl," the source said. "It's not done. He practiced [Monday] and practiced his ass off. He's going to explore what's out there. He might come back."

The source said that Fields and his father have had multiple meetings with Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart about his future over the past few weeks, and that Fields hasn't formally requested a transfer.

Sources told ESPN that Fields might consider Florida State, Ohio State and Oklahoma if he decides to leave.

Fields, from Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Georgia, completed 27 of 39 passes for 328 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in 12 games this season. He was used sporadically throughout games, with much of his action coming in mop-up duty.

Fromm, a sophomore from Warner Robins, Georgia, completed 68.4 percent of his passes for 2,537 yards with 27 touchdowns and five interceptions. He ranked No. 3 among FBS quarterbacks with a total QBR of 88.0.

Fromm has started all but one game the past two seasons. This season, he guided Georgia to an 11-2 record and a second straight appearance in the SEC championship game, losing to Alabama 35-28 on Dec. 1.

As a true freshman last season, Fromm led Georgia to a 13-2 record and the College Football Playoff championship game, which it lost to the Crimson Tide 26-23 in overtime.

If Fields transfers, Fromm would be the only scholarship quarterback on Georgia's roster.

The Bulldogs flipped quarterback Dwan Mathis of Oak Park, Michigan, from Ohio State on the opening day of the early signing period on Wednesday. Mathis, who is ranked the No. 299 prospect overall in the ESPN 300, had previously committed to Iowa State, Michigan State and Ohio State during his whirlwind recruitment.

The Bulldogs have a verbal commitment from dual-threat quarterback John Rhys Plumlee of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the No. 148 prospect in the ESPN 300. However, it's unclear if Plumlee will sign with Georgia when the early signing period begins on Wednesday.

The Bulldogs are also actively pursuing quarterback Zach Calzada of Sugar Hill, Georgia, who is committed to Texas A&M.

Meanwhile, sources also told ESPN that Bulldogs tight end Isaac Nauta (29 catches for 427 yards with three touchdowns) and receiver Riley Ridley (39 catches for 509 yards with three scores) are currently leaning toward forgoing their final college seasons and entering April's NFL draft.

The sources said that three other juniors -- tailback Elijah Holyfield (956 rushing yards with seven touchdowns), receiver Mecole Hardman (33 catches for 529 yards with six scores) and safety J.R. Reed (58 tackles and two interceptions) -- are leaning toward coming back for the 2019 season.