When Dwayne Haskins departed Ohio State for the NFL, he left behind his legacy as the greatest Buckeye quarterback — statistically — the program has ever seen. He rewrote the record books for both OSU and the Big Ten last season, throwing for 4,580 yards with 50 touchdowns while completing 70 percent of his passes. He also left behind some pretty big shoes to fill.
There is no bigger turnover on the Buckeyes roster this season than at the quarterback position, where the reigns will be handed over from a first-year starter that completely changed the position at Ohio State, to yet another first-year starter, who comes in with a ton of hype and an almost entirely different style of play. If the Scarlet and Gray have any shot of making a return to the College Football Playoff in the inaugural season under Ryan Day, it will rest on the shoulders of Justin Fields.
When Fields committed to Georgia in the 2018 class, he was behind only Trevor Lawrence as the No. 2 overall player in the country. A five-star recruit, and the No. 1 dual-threat QB on the board, Fields’ 0.9998 247Sports composite rating is the eighth-highest rating of any player since 2000. Since the Bulldogs incumbent QB Jake Fromm was returning for his junior season, Fields decided to take his talents elsewhere. With Haskins declaring for the NFL Draft, Fields knew he would have a chance to compete for the Buckeyes’ starting job in 2019, and chose to transfer to Ohio State.
Fields’ in-game playing time is extremely limited, as he appeared in 12 games his freshman season but almost exclusively in garbage time. He threw only 39 passes all year, completing 27 of them for 328 yards and four TDs. He ran for an additional 266 yards on 42 attempts, with four rushing TDs. Fields brings with him incredible athleticism from the QB position. In his testing at The Opening during the 2018 cycle, Fields posted a 4.51 second 40-yard dash — a better time than 2019’s best running back Trey Sanders, despite being three inches taller and seven pounds heavier at 6-foot-3, 221 pounds.
Despite never starting a game at the college level, there are high expectations for the sophomore. Fields’ name is already on the preseason Maxwell Award watch list, the award given to college football’s top player. Fields was also listed as the No. 2 quarterback in the Big Ten by Athlon Sports, behind only Michigan’s Shea Patterson, even without having played a single down in the conference. 247Sports’ Brad Crawford even went as far as to say Fields is the best QB in the Big Ten. There is no shortage of hype surrounding the first-year starter, and with all the weapons around him, he should have no problem leading an explosive Ohio State offense in 2019.
While Ryan Day technically hasn't yet named a starting quarterback, it would be a huge shock if it were not Fields in that No. 1 spot, which leaves the No. 2 spot up to Gunnar Hoak. A graduate transfer from Kentucky, Hoak has deep family ties to Ohio State. Originally from Dublin, Ohio, his dad, uncle and cousin all played for the Buckeyes, His uncle Fred Pagac was an assistant coach under Woody Hayes, Earl Bruce and John Cooper, serving as the team’s defensive coordinator from 1996-2000.
The addition of Hoak was very important, as the transfers of Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin left the Ohio State quarterback room thin, having just two scholarship QBs on the roster at the time. Buckeye QBs coach Mike Yurcich really likes what he sees from Hoak, who says he is a perfect fit for their system. At 6-foot-4, 212 pounds, Hoak was a four-star prospect out of Dublin Coffman High School, the same school that produced Brady Quinn. He does not have a ton of experience in games, throwing just 26 passes in four games last season with the Wildcats for 167 yards and two TDs, but the Ohio State coaching staff seems confident in his abilities and are giving him a fair shot at the starting job.
There is not much depth beyond Hoak, with just Chris Chugunov and Jaggar LaRoe left on the roster. Chugunov is a graduate transfer from West Virginia, where he had some bright moments in limited time, but played less than 10 snaps last season. LaRoe is a former Texas A&M walk-on who transferred to Ohio State in the offseason. It would take an emergency scenario for him to see any meaningful snaps in 2019.
There will be a lot of weight on the shoulders of Justin Fields this season, having to come in and replace Ohio State’s most prolific quarterback ever in his first season as a starter. However, the Buckeyes possess a ton of weapons around him on offense, and a light opening to the season schedule should help Fields ease into his new role. There may be a hiccup or two along the way, but there is no reason why Fields can’t lead this Ohio State unit to the College Football Playoff and beyond.
Fields’ style of play will allow the Buckeyes to be more efficient in places they lacked last season, especially in the red zone. His ability to take off and run with the football will open up the ground game for guys like J.K. Dobbins while also forcing the defense not to cheat back in pass coverage. Ohio State will incorporate the run-pass option back into the playbook, which they ran effectively with J.T. Barrett, as Fields has a bunch of experience running RPOs dating all the way back to his junior year of high school.
Hoak will provide valuable minutes off the bench to spell Fields in garbage time, that is unless he does shock the world and win the starting job. However, as of right now, it seems as though Ohio State’s offensive plans this year are centered around Fields and his dynamic playmaking ability.