If you ducked out the door from work a little early on Friday, you might have missed some big news that Ohio State football program had been waiting on.
Quarterback Justin Fields, who transferred from Georgia in January, was declared immediately eligible to play for the Buckeyes.
The news was expected, but still a huge deal for the 2019 team.
For one thing, it ensures that OSU has three scholarship quarterbacks eligible to play this fall.
But it also gives the Buckeyes a uniquely-talented playmaker, considered one of the top passing and running quarterback prospects in recent years.
Now, the question is how quickly Fields can pick up the Buckeyes’ offense.
Before he transferred to Miami, Tate Martell warned that it wasn’t easy to contribute your first year in the system.
“It’s an NFL-type of offense, so it’s difficult to learn,” Martell said in December. “It takes people a while to get it down. Even Dwayne (Haskins), I was talking to Dwayne about it, he was like, ‘Well, it took me over a year to feel like I was even comfortable on the field.’ Now, after two years of being in, I know what I’m doing. I’m on point with everything I do. I’m running the offense.”
It’s easy to dismiss that as just big talk designed to scare Fields away. But OSU head coach Ryan Day seemed to back up Martell’s general point last week, when he said they might have to simplify things for Fields in year one.
“I think there’s a lot of things that you save in the first year. I think it’s all about what you put on a quarterback’s plate,” Day said. “I think they can handle so much in the first year, then you get into year two and three, they start to be able to take more on as it goes.”
It’s still very early in the learning process for Fields, but he said he’s making some progress.
“Well, I have great coaches around here, so I think I’m picking up the offense pretty well. We’re just meeting every day and I should pick up the offense pretty well. Hopefully,” Fields said.
Fields was ranked as the No. 2 quarterback in 2018 recruiting class by the 247 Composite. The only player who finished ahead of him at the position, Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, is an example of the difference a first-year quarterback can make for a program.
He just has to be a generational talent – and a quick learner. But Day said he sees some parallels there.
“You look at what Lawrence did at Clemson this year, early on they were really careful with him, didn’t expose him to a bunch. I think that’s part of having a young quarterback.”
The last two times a first-year Buckeye won the starting quarterback job, Terrelle Pryor and Braxton Miller had up-and-down freshman campaigns in 2008 and 2011, respectively.
If Fields does win the starting job this fall, he would have some advantages over those two.
For one, he’s in Columbus for spring ball. Miller was too, during the tumultuous spring of 2011. Pryor didn’t arrive until summer.
And Fields also has one season of college football under his belt already. That time with the Bulldogs isn’t perfect preparation for what he’ll face in Columbus, but it’s better than nothing.
“Well, this offense is kind of different from Georgia. But I also think being in that Georgia pro-style offense, that has prepared me for this offense,” Fields said. “I have some things to learn, but I hope I can get them down and get started quickly.”