Ohio State is one of the most decorated college football programs in the country, and 2020 should be another year for a dominant Buckeyes team. Lettermen Row is breaking down five Ohio State records that could fall in 2020. We’re kicking it off with Justin Fields and his pursuit of the single-season touchdowns record.
COLUMBUS — Justin Fields showed how good he could be as a first-year starter last season for Ohio State.
Now back for a second season under the coaching of Ryan Day, Kevin Wilson and the offensive staff, Fields could be in for a record-breaking campaign.
He’s the first quarterback in Day’s coaching tenure to return for a second season — at any level of his career. And the development of Fields is something Day is still looking for as they navigate the new challenge this offseason of a pushed-back spring practice. In the three practices they squeezed in before the coronavirus changed the calendar, Fields was progressing well.
“I’m proud of his development from where he was at this point last year to where he is right now in practice one,” Day said. “He’s come a long way in the pocket, moving in the pocket, seeing things and drop-back protection. We have a list of things that he’s working on to get better at.
“But a lot of it is just learning to play the position in terms of this past season — as time went along he got more and more responsibility and it’s now kind of Year Two. So now we spent a lot of time talking about the intricacies of the position — protections, route progressions, coverages — things like that where we can get a little more involved and start to explain the playbook a little more.”
If Fields continues on this trajectory, he could find himself re-writing the Ohio State record books in Year Two.
Which record will fall?
The record: Dwayne Haskins had 54 total touchdowns in 2018 .
How Justin Fields breaks it: Fields had 51 total touchdowns a year ago, and he didn’t play in every fourth quarter due to all the blowouts Ohio State posted. The Buckeyes might play in a few more close games next season, particular in nonconference play. Last year, the Buckeyes had three nonconference games, and none were as tough as the trip to Oregon on Sept. 12.
This also won’t just be about Fields progression as a quarterback and his amount of snaps played. One of the most crucial pieces to the offense will be the development of the young receivers Fields will be throwing to offensively. Fields will have his go-to targets in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. But if Julian Fleming, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott and Mookie Cooper can help complement the veteran wide receivers and talented stable of tight ends, Fields will have no shortage of options when it comes to throwing targets.
Mix the passing game in with Fields’ dynamic ability to use his legs to tuck and run, along with designed runs that could be called, and he could have more touchdowns on the ground next year than he had last season. He’ll be running behind one of the best offensive lines in school history, one that could feature multiple All-Americans and will keep him healthier than he was toward the end of last season.
Fields is only going to improve as a passer, and while the Buckeyes are still searching for answers at running back, they know what they have at quarterback, both through the air and on the ground. His decision making has never been questioned because he’s so smart with the ball. If he is improving the way Ryan Day and the coaching staff says he is, Justin Fields will be ready to break the single-season touchdowns record, one that was set only two years ago.