In 2018, Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins threw for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns, the most in a single season by anyone in the history of the Big Ten Conference. But he’s gone. Almost assuredly one of the top two quarterbacks taken in next month’s NFL Draft, Ryan Day will have to begin his first tenure as a head coach with a brand new starter. However, despite working with the OSU quarterbacks for more than two years now, the man that Day will almost certainly call upon to lead his first Buckeye team is not only new to the starting role, but to the program as well.
His name is Justin Fields.
From the moment that whispers began wafting up from Georgia that the former five-star recruit might be interested in departing Athens, the excitement amongst Buckeye fans has been at a fevered pitch. But, most of that was on reputation and recruiting rankings alone, as few amongst Buckeye Nation likely paid much attention to the Kennesaw, Ga., native’s freshmen season at UGA.
Though he only amassed 328 passing yards and 266 rushing yards as a true freshman for Georgia, the gaudiness of his high school accolades are still fresh in everyone’s minds. He was the second-rated player nationally in the 2018 recruiting class (behind only Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence), Fields was the top dual-threat QB, and eighth rated player in the history of 247 Sports’ Composite Rankings, dating back to 2000.
Coming out of high school recruiting analysts compared Fields to Deshaun Watson and Cam Newton, and ESPN noted that, “He is always a passer first, runner second and possesses coveted poise in the pocket and composure under duress.”
That hype has made folks extra anxious to see what Fields can do for the Buckeyes, and next month’s spring game will be the first chance for him to prove himself in the scarlet and gray. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn things from his time with the Bulldogs.
In his highlight package from the 2018 season, you will see that he was often called upon to run, generally because the Dawgs were either well out in front, or completely out-matched their opponents. While I am sure that Day will utilize Fields’ running ability to a certain degree this coming season, the Buckeyes will likely succeed or fail on the strength and accuracy of his arm.
As we discussed last week, the offense that will likely be employed by Day and new “passing game coordinator” Mike Yurcich requires quarterbacks to get the ball to receivers in tight windows — which Fields shows in the above video — and when WRs beat the defense, to deliver the ball deep.
On this one specific play agains UMass, Fields shows that he has a first-rate arm throwing the ball deep, and has pinpoint accuracy as well. While the Buckeyes lost a trio of dynamite receivers to the NFL Draft in Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon, there is more than enough talent in Brian Hartline’s room to give Fields options to throw to both short and long.
If Day is able to help Fields develop like he did Haskins, and the OSU offensive line is able to gel enough to keep the sophomore out of trouble, the transfer QB could very well continue to put up the video game numbers that his predecessor did before him.
Despite what Stephen A. Smith thinks of Haskins, he was not a running quarterback, however, with a rebuilt Buckeye o-line, if pressure does make it into the backfield, Fields clearly has the mobility to keep plays alive and to escape if necessary.
That skill set, combined with Ohio State’s skill-position players and what appears to be elite-level offensive minds running the show, could be what helps Ohio State get over the hump, and back into the College Football Playoff.