COLUMBUS – As Justin Fields goes, so goes Ohio State this season.
If you want to predict how many games the Buckeyes will win this fall, there is no information more valuable than knowing how the highly rated and much-hyped quarterback will perform after transferring from Georgia and being granted immediate eligibility.
Dwayne Haskins left a huge hole to fill when he declared for the NFL draft after setting Ohio State records for passing yards (4,831) and touchdown passes (50) last season. He was drafted No. 15 in the 2019 NFL draft by Washington.
Fields is a former five-star recruit who was ranked the No. 1 quarterback recruit nationally in the 2018 recruiting class by some analysts and No. 2 behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence by others.
He enrolled at Georgia in January 2018 and played in the Bulldogs’ spring game, but after one year as Jake Fromm’s backup, he began to explore the possibility of transferring.
On Jan. 4, he transferred to Ohio State, and on Feb. 8 the NCAA waived the requirement that transfers sit out a season for him.
Fields’ arrival led to the departure of Tate Martell, last year’s No. 2 quarterback at Ohio State, who transferred to Miami, and its No. 3 quarterback, Matthew Baldwin, who left for TCU.
That means OSU’s top three quarterbacks are Fields, Gunnar Hoak and Chris Chugunov. Hoak was expected to spend a second year as Kentucky’s No. 2 quarterback this season before transferring to Ohio State. And Chugunov, who came to Ohio State last year, had two career starts at West Virginia, both in 2017 when the starter was injured.
Fields completed 27 of 39 passes and threw for four touchdowns without an interception last season at Georgia. He also rushed for 266 yards and four touchdowns.
He is expected to be more of a dual threat than Haskins, though probably not the exceptional passer his predecessor was. At least not right away.
In high school, Fields passed for 4,187 yards and rushed for 2,096 yards in two years as a starter at Harrison High School in Kennesaw, Georgia.
The only chance to see Fields for any extended period of time since he arrived in Columbus was OSU’s spring game, where he was 4 of 13 passing and rushed for 38 yards under conditions that were quite a bit different from actual game conditions.
It is difficult to see Ohio State doing anything other than giving the overwhelming percentage of the snaps at quarterback this season to Fields.
That’s not really a question. But there are questions that remain about him.
Will he produce the kind of season that is expected? Will he be more like Haskins or more of a J.T. Barrett-type quarterback? Or will he be something in between?
Will he make plays with his feet as well as his arm, or will Ohio State be reluctant to have him run the ball because losing him to an injury might drastically change the direction the season takes?
And maybe the biggest question of all is just what does Ohio State have in Fields. His experience in college football is very limited. Between Georgia and Ohio State, he has thrown more passes in spring games than he has in real games.