“The surge arrived over the past week. Fields said he feels more comfortable with the playbook. As a result he moves with more confidence in the pocket and has begun to anticipate actions more.”
— Nathan Baird | cleveland.com
Ever since Justin Fields transferred into the Ohio State Buckeyes program, the belief was he’d be the starter. Especially after Tate Martell departed for Miami, and Matthew Baldwin transferred to TCU, it felt like a bonafide, bet-the-farm, guarantee that Fields was going to be QB1.
We saw flashes of what he could at the spring game, and while it wasn’t the greatest of performances, we got an idea of what was possible. But, when spring concluded, he wasn’t named the starter.
Combine that with Gunnar Hoak arriving from Kentucky, and you have murmurs about whether or not there’s a legitimate QB battle taking place in Columbus. Throughout preseason camp, each passing day brought the same conclusion: there was no starting QB to be named. Other positions were having their own depth chart battles, but focus was geared toward the signal-caller position.
With Ryan Day’s announcement on Monday that Fields is the starter, the question that now pops up is how and when this decision was finalized.
In an article from Nathan Baird at Cleveland.com, Fields becoming the starter isn’t just attached to his physical abilities; he has the energy, confidence, and drive—all essential to being the guy running an offense, especially Ohio State’s.
Looking at the total picture now, I see why Day held off on the decision until he knew it was the right time. I think giving Hoak a fighting chance was warranted, but at the same time, that enabled both QBs—in particularly Fields—to grow. Uprooting oneself to a new program comes with challenges, but it appears that Fields has made a positive impact on his new teammates.
Now that he has a grasp of the playbook and style, all that’s left to do is go out and perform when the snaps, plays, and scores matter.
“If Fields is as good as advertised, Ohio State will be hard to beat in the Big Ten—but then, winning the conference hasn’t always guaranteed a playoff berth.”
— Ohio State football prediction | Sports Illustrated Staff
Now with Fields cemented as the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes, there may need to be some updated season previews before Week 1 of the season arrives. While we knew Fields was talented, making it official that he’s QB1 is just the first step in acknowledging what he can do for the Scarlet and Gray.
But let’s think bigger. What if Fields meets the expectations (and then some) in 2019? What does that mean for OSU as a whole? Well, Sports Illustrated took a little look into that on Tuesday—and previewed the Buckeyes’ season.
Fields isn’t the only member of the Buckeyes, but will surely be one of the more important pieces to the machine. On offense, J.K. Dobbins returns, and SI mentioned how the Texan was able to smash Maurice Clarett’s freshman rushing record two seasons ago. While he did have a drop off in production last season, the argument I (and SI) note is that the emergence of Dwayne Haskins changed the philosophy of the offense. No longer was it a rush first mentality.
Filling the void of Nick Bosa and Dre’Mont Jones on the defensive line would usually be hard for most programs, but the Bucks have Chase Young. Young is well on his way to becoming the next great D-lineman, and with that, the early speculation that he’d be one of the top picks in the NFL Draft. If he has another great season, then the smart money would point to him maybe being a top-3 pick in the Draft.
SI puts the Buckeyes above the 10.5 win mark, meaning they’d either go 11-1 or 12-0 for the regular season. That’s enough to be a favorite in the Big Ten East, but there is a caveat to this: what exactly does winning the B1G do if you have a loss on the résumé? Last season, a one-loss Buckeye squad won the conference a week after dismantling Michigan, but was left out of the College Football Playoff.
Hypothetical: If OSU goes 11-1 (with that one loss being close) and wins the Big Ten, would they be a CFP team?
“That said, the door for Haskins to emerge as the starter is undoubtedly more open than it was before the latest McCoy news. On the most simple level, two weeks ago Haskins had to beat out Keenum and McCoy to get the start. Now it seems like the Ohio State star just needs to beat out Keenum.”
— JP Findlay | NBC Sports Washington
Dwayne Haskins has made steady improvements throughout the preseason. He had a tough debut against Cleveland, but rebounded with a performance against Cincinnati. With still a few weeks before the start of the NFL season, there was a chance that he’d be in the mix for the No. 2 spot behind Colt McCoy.
That was until the injury bug came back (again).
McCoy broke a tibia last season, and even though he was on the upswing to being healthy, his leg still hasn’t completely healed.
Serious injuries are nothing new to Washington, as Alex Smith, the arguable starter amongst all the QBs on the Redskins’ roster, suffered a season-ending leg injury last November—one that included breaking his tibia and fibula.
If McCoy is sidelined for a handful of weeks, then that means either Case Keenum or Haskins will be getting the greenlight to start.
Keenum has the NFL experience, but Haskins is the upstart and has real potential to shine. If the Washington QB battle didn’t have your attention before, it may have your attention now.
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- On this day in history: (1920) A meeting between team representatives of Ohio football squads takes place in Canton. The teams are the Akron Pros, Canton Bulldogs, Cleveland Indians and Dayton Triangles. This meeting helps form the American Professional Football Conference (APFC). In 1922, the APFC changes their name to something called the National Football League (NFL).