If you were worried about Ryan Day’s recruiting ability, he may have given you a pretty good reassurance today. The first time head coach — in his third official day at the helm of the Ohio State program — made a pretty massive splash, as he seemingly has landed Georgia quarterback transfer and former five-star recruit Justin Fields.
Fields is a huge name, one of the best quarterback recruits ever according to 247Sports historical composite ratings, and landing him is obviously a huge deal for Ohio State. However, there is still the presence of both Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin at Ohio State. There will likely be a battle between those three for the starting job, and that battle will dominate the conversation about Ohio State through all of spring ball, as any quarterback battle at Ohio State normally does.
It shouldn’t though. If Fields is immediately eligible thanks to the approval of his NCAA petition — which I think he will be — there should be no discussion about a quarterback battle. Justin Fields is better than Tate Martell. He’s better than Matthew Baldwin. Ohio State can, and will have a “battle,” but it’s a battle in name only. Justin Fields is the best quarterback, and the best fit for Ryan Day’s offense, and that’ll be obvious from day one.
Let’s take a look at exactly what makes Fields such an obvious choice, and what Ohio State is getting from the sophomore gunslinger, with help from both his high school and college film.
We’ll start with the most proven part of Fields’ game, at least on the college level: his legs. Georgia used him almost exclusively as a runner, and while he has an elite arm, he’s one hell of a runner too, and he showed that all season long with runs like this one. He improvises in a collapsing pocket with nothing open downfield, finds an escape route, and flashes his reportedly 4.5 second 40-yard-dash speed on his way to the end zone.
He can also scoot on designed runs, like he did here on this read option keep against UMass. He makes the correct read, and despite stumbling late in the run, he’s able to gash the defense for a massive gain with his pure athleticism. Fields isn’t necessarily at Braxton Miller’s level of speed or explosiveness in open space, but he’s extremely capable of beating defenses with his feet, and can add another dimension to Ohio State’s offense that was lacking this year with the comparatively immobile Dwayne Haskins.
On top of that, Fields is at least as capable running the read option as Tate Martell is, and he’s proven to be a significantly better passer than Martell early on in his career with throws like this one.
As he shows on that pass, Fields has a lighting quick release, and the strength to launch a pass into heavy traffic. He’s very confident in his arm, for good reason, and his mechanics are already silky smooth, despite being just 19 years old.
He shows that strength, quickness, and some excellent accuracy here as well on a near touchdown pass across the middle to Isaac Nauta. He reads the zone quickly off the play action, and puts the ball right where it needs to be, hitting his tight end in stride with a throw that isn’t too hard, but has the velocity necessary to get through the defense.
Speaking of velocity, control, and accuracy, Fields didn’t really get to showcase his deep ball UGA, save for this one pass to Mecole Hardman. Fields puts the ball right on Hardman’s numbers from 50 yards out with ease. His touch, mechanics, and strength are already elite, and that’s before he spends an offseason with Ryan Day and Mike Yurcich, in an offense much better suited for his style.
Even going back to his high school days, Fields is an immensely talented quarterback. His potential is truly unlimited, and he has something that I think doesn’t get nearly enough coverage when quarterbacks are discussed: creativity. He excels not just when everything goes according to plan, but when things go sideways. He’s able to manipulate the pocket, escape when necessary, and do whatever it takes to make a play.
If it means a completion, Fields is more than willing to wildly adjust his mechanics, and does so smoothly whenever necessary. It’s not fair to compare a young player to a future NFL MVP, but he really does have a Patrick Mahomes-esque quality to the way he plays, the way he always seems to be in control, and the way he makes unconventional plays look completely natural.
Now, put all of that creativity, all of that natural ability, all of that athleticism into an offense heavily influenced by air raid concepts. Give him one of the most quarterback friendly head coaches in the country, and an offseason to fully learn how to read and manipulate a defense from the coach that just helped Dwayne Haskins throw his way into the record books. Justin Fields in Columbus? That’s not just dangerous. That’s terrifying.