Last year at this time, Ohio State’s quarterback room had thrown a total of 57 career passes. They all belonged to Dwayne Haskins, who had never started a game.
There were some question marks, but plenty of confidence, and he ended up being okay.
The Buckeyes’ quarterback room is again full of inexperience and question marks, but this time there are two career starts and 160 career pass attempts among the six or so QBs on the roster.
If lightning is going to strike twice, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day and his offensive coaching staff have to get the conditions just right, and that process continues on in the summer.
Coaches can’t get on the field and coach with a football, but players can meet with coaches and they can study film with them. Quarterbacks will also organize workouts and throwing sessions on their own.
It’s in the meetings, however, where the coaches get a feel for where their players are.
“Just meetings and drill work and more meetings,” Day said of the on-going summer for the Buckeye quarterbacks. “I think one of the things that when you’re asking questions — we do direct teaching here — when you ask questions, the faster that they can snap the answer back to you, the better you know their brain is working. And so if we come up here quickly and ask a question, he can bang it right back to you.
“You got a feeling like the more quarterbacks you’re around, you get a feel that, ‘All right, he knows what’s going on.’ If there’s a hesitation there, what do you think’s going to happen during the game? He’s probably going to be a little slow. So we try to quiz them, we try to ask them questions, those types of things.”
The Buckeyes will take the field this season with three scholarship quarterbacks and three walk-on quarterbacks. While Georgia transfer Justin Fields has not won the job yet according to Day, the expectation from those outside the program is that he will.
And when Day looks at Fields, he sees an enormous amount of ability, but not as much experience as a coach would like.
Still, Fields played in 11 games as a true freshman and threw 39 passes. That’s not too far off from Dwayne Haskins a year ago, but Haskins had been learning the offense for a much longer period of time.
A lot of work went into making Haskins a starting quarterback, and just as much work will go into doing the same for Justin Fields. The biggest difference, however, is that instead of a couple of years, Fields is only being given about nine months to get ready.
“When you go back and look at him, I have always stopped myself because this is somebody who has so much talent, and physically God gave him a ton of gifts,” Day said of Fields. “But learning to play the position is something you learn through experience. He just doesn’t have that experience, so we can’t substitute that. That being said, we have so many tools and resources in place that he can use to get himself to advance along the way.
“There’s film, there’s workouts, there’s throwing on his own with the receivers and the tight ends and running backs. He has to do that the summer on his own, we can’t do that with him. And then there’s going to be preseason camp and trying to get as many reps as we possibly can. We have different ways to do that. The summer, virtual reality, all kinds of different tools to try to get him advanced — and all of our quarterbacks, all of our positions.”
And, of course, none of the work put in by coaches and teammates will matter if Fields isn’t matching and exceeding their efforts. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, he has been doing just that.
“He’s done a good job so far, he’s been working really, really hard in the weight room, he’s been doing a good job studying film,” Day said. “You know you can actually take the iPads home and then watch film, and we have so much film to go off of the last couple of years. Study in your dorm. So it can’t just be the eight hours of the week. It’s going to be more than that on his own.”
He’ll be fine after game two.
Don’t forget McCall, Olave and maybe Wilson as part of the talent around him.
If we consider one of Meyer’s most common cliches, that a QB is a product of the talent that is around him, we have good reason to be confident about Fields. Mack, Hill, Victor, Dobbins, Rucker’s, Farrell. If Fields trusts the program, the staff, his teammates and doesn’t try to take everything onto his back, he will do just fine this year.
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