COLUMBUS — Justin Fields didn’t get to show everything he can do in his Ohio State debut.
The sophomore Georgia transfer played in front of over 60,000 people during the annual spring game last month, but even then, he didn’t get to showcase a lot of what he brings to the table for the Buckeyes.
“I’m very comfortable in that setting,” Fields said. “The read option, that kind of stuff. I think it’s going to be a big part of us this upcoming year. I feel very comfortable in that. I’ve been doing it since high school.”
Fields is a dual-threat quarterback; the black no-contact jersey he wore during that game didn’t allow him to be, though. In the 13 pass attempts he had, only four of them were completed. He finished the day with over 100 yards passing, but 98 of them were on one play, a touchdown.
“He can kind of create out on the edge a little bit, but we didn’t get to see that as much,” coach Ryan Day said after the scrimmage.
Good thing it was only the spring game, an exhibition. Fields isn’t the first quarterback to struggle in a spring game leading up to his first start at Ohio State. Remember Dwayne Haskins? The Buckeyes star and first-round pick to the Washington Redskins who lit up the Big Ten last season and broke a number of records? Haskins struggled, too.
Last spring, Haskins finished his day 9-19 for 120 yards passing and two touchdowns. Joe Burrow out-played him in that game, but Haskins went on to win the job and torch the Big Ten record books.
Fields could wind up the same way. Along with his 4-of-13 day passing, Fields had 38 yards rushing and a touchdown.
When he did run, some good things happened, but he wasn’t allowed to much.
But that’s OK. Fields has only been in Day’s Ohio State system since January. He had never taken a snap for the Buckeyes, aside from practice. He has barely any college game experience.
“The more you know when you step on the field, the more you’re prepared, the better off you’re going to be,” Day said. “But there’s nothing that replaces experience, so the more these guys get a chance to play and run the offense, the better they’ll be.”
Like Haskins was last season, Fields is still learning what he’s doing with his wide receivers, progressing through his reads and finding ways to make plays. Haskins had two years with Day’s playbook.
Fields has essentially had two months.
“Getting a hang of the playbook and the receivers, because a lot of the concepts are the same, it’s just the route running and the little details of it,” Fields said. “Once I get that fully down, I feel like it’ll just take me up to a whole different level and I can start showing what I can do.”
Fortunately for Fields, his receiving corp is littered with talent and returning playmakers who can make his job easier. Haskins had a handful of upperclassmen to throw the ball to last season. Fields can use that to his advantage.
And like Haskins last season, Fields found himself in a spring quarterback battle before his counterpart transferred out. The pressure to win the job is off.
Justin Fields might have missed a couple throws in his Ohio State debut, and he might not have looked like a Heisman Trophy contender in mid-April.
But it was just mid-April.