COLUMBUS — Justin Fields has his approval, and Ohio State will have its new quarterback on the field with no delay.
As has been expected since the moment one of the most coveted passers in the country decided to leave Georgia and head to the Buckeyes, the highest-rated recruit the program has ever landed had his NCAA waiver appeal for instant eligibility approved on Friday. Fields won’t have to sit out for a season, clearing the way for him to head into spring practice with a chance to win the starting job for the two-time defending Big Ten champions.
The massive move was confirmed by the school, tidying up a relatively short process since Fields announced is intentions to join the Buckeyes last month. And it sets the table for a fascinating battle with Matthew Baldwin to replace Dwayne Haskins as Ohio State continues through offseason conditioning with an eye on the 15 workouts set to begin in March.
“I think the number one thing you look for [in a starter] is some sort of extraordinary trait,” Ryan Day said earlier this offseason. “From there, though, there’s a whole other list of things that we go through. Certainly arm talent, certainly accuracy is a huge part of that. But the number one thing we want is some sort of exceptional trait. And J.T. [Barrett] had one and Dwayne had one, and I think one of our strengths on offense is the ability to adjust the offense to fit the quarterback and to fit our personnel. I think in college that’s really, really important because sometimes if you’re looking for a specific style, there may not be one in that class.
“So let’s go find somebody that has some sort of extraordinary talent and then build around it. But that being said, being able to throw and accuracy is really high up on the list.”
Both options on hand for the Buckeyes bring that to the table, though Fields did arrive on campus with far greater expectations as one of the most decorated high school passers in the nation. His decision to transfer to Ohio State earned him recognition right off the bat as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate like Haskins was a year ago — but that was contingent on two things.
First, Fields had to become eligible.
Second, he needs to beat out Baldwin and become the starting quarterback.
Now that the first step is officially out of the way, Ohio State and Justin Fields can proceed without any restrictions.
Justin Fields statement on his eligibility at Ohio State:
“I thank God for His guidance during this time of uncertainty. I would like to thank the NCAA for its approval of the waiver allowing me to be eligible to play football this fall. I also want to thank all those who supported and encouraged my family and me during this process. While my case was pending before the NCAA, my family and I did not feel that it was appropriate to publicly speak about the circumstances leading to my transfer. In my silence, people began to speculate, and the story took on a life of its own.
“Now that this matter is concluded, I would like to clarify some facts. I have no regrets about my time at UGA and have no hard feelings for the school or football program. My overall experience at UGA was fully consistent with UGA’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. My sister is a softball player at UGA. I am still close friends with many of my UGA teammates. A part of me will always be a Georgia Bulldogs fan.
“To Buckeye Nation: thank you for your warm welcome. I will work hard to represent you and The Ohio State University in a professional and respectful manner. My dad always tells me that “you can’t get to where you are going by looking in the ‘rear view mirror.’” I’m ready to move forward and embrace the next season of my life.
“I will not be speaking about my transfer again. Instead, I will focus all of my attention on getting to work in the classroom and on the field – and doing whatever else I can to help my teammates as we prepare for the 2019 season.”