Now, obviously, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Justin Fields. After just one season at Ohio State, the Georgia transfer has already solidified himself as one of the greatest quarterbacks in program history. However, for this exercise to work, I need you just to humor me for a bit. So let’s just pretend that for arguments sake, Justin Fields does not exist. Abducted by aliens, decided to quit football, an angry Michigan fan figured out time travel to make sure he was never born — whatever it takes to get you there.
With that being the case, the Buckeyes now need a quarterback to come fill in and play alongside the rest of the 2020 squad. They are allowed to go back into the archives and select one of their former QBs to help try and lead the team to a National Championship this season. The only question: which one do you choose? You obviously want to pick a guy who is incredibly talented, but also one that will fit well into Ryan Day’s current system and mesh with players on this year’s roster.
There are no shortage of options for this question, but let’s begin with the one of the most prolific signal-callers in recent OSU history: Terrelle Pryor.
Pryor is probably the most similar QB to Fields in terms of play style over the last decade plus. Throwing for nearly 6,200 yards and rushing for almost 2,200 yards during his three seasons at the helm, Pryor featured a great mix of both arm talent and the ability to make plays with his legs. Things may not have ended in spectacular fashion for the dynamic athlete as a result of the infamous Tattoo Gate, but Pryor put together a fantastic career at Ohio State, winning Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2008 and being named the Rose Bowl MVP in 2010.
Braxton Miller is a potentially good option. Miller was just like that kid in high school who was simply more athletic than everyone else on the team, so the coaches threw him at quarterback to make sure the ball was in his hands as much as possible. While the arm talent left a bit to be desired at times, Miller was an absolute freak of an athlete. His incredibly high football IQ as well as video game-like speed and agility made for an explosive QB that became a two-time Big Ten Most Valuable Player.
Another interesting choice would be J.T. Barrett, who would likely be the most polarizing option for Buckeye Nation. There are many — myself included — who criticized Barrett’s abilities during his career at Ohio State, but it is hard to argue with the results. In addition to leading the team to the first ever College Football Playoff, the four-year starter filled up the trophy case. The recipient of the Chicago Tribune Silver Football in 2016, Barrett was named to the First Team All-Big Ten three times and also thrice won the Grise-Brees QB of the Year award. Say what you want about his skillset, but if nothing else, Barrett was a winner.
While Barrett got the Buckeyes to the CFP in 2014, they don't end that season with a National Championship without Cardale Jones. Thrust into action following Barrett’s injury, Jones rattled off three-straight wins against Wisconsin, Alabama and Oregon, wherein he threw for 742 yards with six total TDs to just two interceptions. He had a rocky 2015 season as the coaching staff botched the QB battle between he and Barrett, but there was no denying Jones’ cannon of an arm and his ability to win games on the biggest stage.
Which brings us finally to my personal choice: Dwayne Haskins. In a Justin Fields-less world, I think the perfect quarterback who could come in and lead this year’s Ohio State team to a national title would be the man that was let down by his defense in 2018.
Haskins was nothing short of dominant as a rare pro-style passer in the Buckeye offense, throwing for over 4,800 yards with 50 touchdowns and just eight picks in his one season as a starter. Shattering multiple single-season program records, Haskins was selected First Team All-Big Ten, earning the Chicago Tribune Silver Football and being named the MVP of the 2018 B1G Championship and the 2019 Rose Bowl. He was robbed of getting to show his stuff in the CFP thanks mainly to a terribly scheme on the other side of the ball (thanks, Bill Davis), but nonetheless was one of the greatest quarterbacks in Ohio State history.
This year’s roster is perfectly set up for Haskins to succeed. He would be surrounded by a litany of incredibly talented wide receivers, with an offensive line that could give him days in the pocket. The quarterback position evolved under Ryan Day, and Haskins is the one who helped build that initial mold. He would also enjoy the fact that this year’s defense should be worlds better than the one he was given in 2018, thanks to a complete overhaul of the coaching staff since that season.
If I had to pick one former Ohio State quarterback to return to Columbus, Haskins is my guy.