When quarterback Justin Fields arrived at Ohio State, he knew it would take some time for him to learn the offense.
A couple of weeks before he arrived, the current (and now former) Buckeye quarterbacks said that head coach Ryan Day’s offense takes at least a year to grasp.
Fields has been on campus for about five months now and been through one spring camp. Over that time, however, he apparently showed enough to make it clear to his competition that the job was Fields’ to lose.
But it wasn’t all perfection. In fact, there were some downright rough days of practice for Fields. He got better throughout the spring, but he had his ups and downs, which weren’t unexpected.
“It’s really different because some days you go out there and you do great, then the next day we have a bunch of new installation plays,” Fields said recently. “Coach [Ryan Day] said it before, it’s growing pains. There’s of course ups and downs, but overall, I think spring was great, and as time goes on, everybody will start getting more comfortable with each other. Quarterbacks and receivers, the timing and everything like that. We just have to continue getting better.”
The playbook is the main thing that people pointed to when wondering if Fields would be able to perform at the necessary level. But knowing the playbook is just one aspect of being able to control the offense. There is also an understanding of what his receivers are doing and the best place to put the football. Nobody was better than Dwayne Haskins at ball placement, so Fields will have some accurate shoes to fill.
“The biggest thing, just getting the hang of the playbook and the receivers,” Fields said. “Because a lot of the concepts are the same, but the route running and just the little details of it, so once I get that done, it will take me to a whole different level and I can really start showing what I can do.”
Day said they had the entire offense installed this spring, but there will undoubtedly be more to add. Fields had a firm grasp on what they worked on this spring, however, and showed himself to be a quick learner. As he continues to learn the what and how of the offense, he will also gain a better grasp on the why.
“That’s why I say that I’m only scratching the surface,” he said. “I feel like once we start meeting more, and once we get the whole idea of the playbook and keep getting it down, it’s going to take repetition, but after those reps and after I get a good idea of the offense, I feel like we’ll be explosive this year.”
The next step for Fields is to become the leader that the quarterback position requires. As he gains a better understanding of the offense as a whole, he can become more vocal and hold his teammates accountable for mistakes. If he is making similar mistakes, however, then any criticism from him will just look like finger pointing.
He is now spending time watching film, throwing with receivers, studying defenses, and anything else that it will take to get him ready for the 2019 season.
It also doesn’t hurt having head coach Ryan Day to lean on. Fields knows that Day will give him everything he will need in order to succeed. Fields simply needs to follow through.
“I trust Coach Day. He’s like family,” Fields said. ” I talk to [Day’s son] RJ all the time. Me and RJ are like brothers. He’s like my manager. My comfort level with Coach Day is that I can’t get any more comfortable with him. He’s like a mentor to me. He’s a great coach and he’s going to be straight up with you and he’s going to tell you what you need to work on and what you need to do.”
Right now, Day is telling Fields to keep doing what he is doing. Effort leads to results. This spring was a good start for Fields, but it was only the beginning.