CHICAGO — Virtually the entire college football world might view the Ohio State quarterback situation as a foregone conclusion.
But the one holdout is the only vote that matters.
Ryan Day still wants to take a competition into training camp in August. He still isn’t ready to name Justin Fields his starter at the most important position on the roster. And given how consistent he’s been with his approach heading into Big Ten Media Days on Thursday at the Hilton Chicago, at this point it appears far more likely that he truly believes patience is the right path and this isn’t merely lip service.
With training camp two weeks away for Ohio State, there is no changing his mind on the issue even if the choice to eventually lead the offense might seem obvious to everybody outside of the program considering the five-star pedigree Fields brought with him as a transfer from Georgia.
“One of our core philosophies is that you don’t just get given the starting position,” Day said. “You have to earn everything you get around here, and he hasn’t done that. The hard thing for everybody to realize is that he is coming off the heels of Dwayne Haskins. I think a lot of people believe that Dwayne went from zero to 60 so fast and he just kind of jumped into the Heisman Trophy race and that all happened [quickly]. Well, that was a very different scenario than Justin Fields.
“Justin hasn’t won the job yet, and that’s the first step in all of this. I know everybody wants to get way ahead of this and start talking about the Heisman, but how about winning the starting quarterback job first? You can’t win the job when you’re just learning the offense.”
Fields was able to get that process started in the spring. But the sophomore has just 15 practices under his belt along with a summer full of player-organized throwing sessions, which is one reason Day has been quick to tap the brakes on the hype-machine that has Fields listed as a possible Heisman candidate without having ever played a game at Ohio State.
That doesn’t mean Ohio State hasn’t been blown away by the physical tools, intelligence and maturity of Fields — and Day made a point to rattle off all of the attributes that could make him a special player for the Buckeyes.
But at the same time, he stressed the importance of winning a head-to-head battle with fellow transfer Gunnar Hoak first and foremost, with Ohio State hoping to name a starter by the midway point of training camp.
“You’d like to get it done within the first couple weeks of camp, for sure,” Day said. “You’d like to know who that is, because if it goes into the third week of preseason camp, then either they’re both competing at a high level or nobody has stepped up yet. We’d like to have that within the second week of camp, but if not, we’ll just keep it going. You just don’t know what it’s going to look like. Somebody could step off a curb [wrong] tomorrow.
“What I know about him is that physically he checks all the boxes. Running, athleticism, size, power, throwing ability, arm strength, accuracy, intelligence — he has all those things. Now it’s just a matter of going out and putting it all on the field and seeing what kind of product we’ve got. … We’ll find out in August once we get on the field and start with practice.”
Until then, Ohio State won’t have an official starting quarterback. For now, it just has an odds-on favorite in Justin Fields.