After watching Dwayne Haskins light Ohio State and Big Ten record books on fire this season, the bar has been raised at quarterback.
Haskins is likely to leave for the NFL Draft. Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin are each more than capable of running Ohio State’s offense in the future, but the Friday addition of Justin Fields to the roster changes things in a considerable way.
The country’s No. 2-ranked overall prospect in the Class of 2018, Justin Fields is the highest-ranked recruit in the internet recruiting era to ever choose Ohio State. He’s got prototypical NFL quarterback size at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds and runs a 4.51 in the 40-yard dash — laser timed. According to Haskins, Fields is “freak,” and the personal quarterback coach for each sees comparisons for Fields when he looks at two of the NFL’s brightest stars.
“It sounds crazy to compare him to those guys who are of course at the pinnacle of the sport, but you see characteristics of Cam Newton and Deshaun Watson,” Quincy Avery told Lettermen Row. “Those are guys he shares traits with or guys [Fields] reminds me of.”
— Dwayne Haskins, Jr (@dh_simba7) June 24, 2018
Fields is a special talent as a passer and that’s something Avery see as a similar trait shared with Haskins.
“Theyâ€™re both elite passers,” Avery told Lettermen Row. “And we all got to see what Dwayne did this year at Ohio State.”
It’s what Haskins did this year that caught the attention of Fields, and that is why his personal coach believed the Buckeyes system could prove to be a good fit for him, though he played no personal part in the decision.
â€œThe thing about Ryan Day, speaking with Dwayne in terms about how Ryan Day helped his development, is the offense at Ohio State,” Avery said. “He gives a bunch of pro-style concepts. The things he does on third down are very creative. He prepares you with the quarterback mindset to play at the next level. Thatâ€™s all you can ask for as a college quarterback, someone who is going to teach you and help you get better and help you grow as a quarterback.
“The goal isnâ€™t to develop guys for the NFL for Ryan Day. The goal is to win games, but in doing those things, he develops them for the NFL.â€
The NFL is a big piece of this puzzle and why Ohio State was the fit for Fields. The passing concepts deployed by the Buckeyes are advanced, as Avery recognizes.
Fields, in his one year at Georgia, didn’t need to learn everything. He was going to play behind Jake Fromm and was able to ease into the offense, being utilized in specific spots by the Bulldogs. If he wants to be the starter at Ohio State, though, he’ll need to learn everything — and he’ll need to learn it quickly.
“Itâ€™s going to take a while to learn the offense,” Martell said before the Rose Bowl. “Iâ€™m just telling you, itâ€™s not easy. It doesnâ€™t matter where you came from or what youâ€™ve done. Coach Day brings an NFL-type of playbook to our offense, and itâ€™s difficult. Itâ€™s not going to be something that you can just walk in and three months in during spring ball you think youâ€™re rolling.
“Itâ€™s not that easy, I promise you.â€
But it’s something Avery feels confident that Fields can do, confidence rooted in watching the performance he put on during the summer of 2017 at the Elite 11 Finals in Los Angeles and at The Opening Finals in Portland. It was that summer when Fields went from an under-the-radar former Penn State commitment to the hottest recruiting name in America.
“At the Elite 11 Finals, I watched Justin literally put on a clinic,” Avery said. “Iâ€™ve never seen someone go through that playbook — a high-level NFL playbook — and understand the routes and conceptualize them so quickly and then be able to make all the throws necessary to play football at a high level. He did it better than anyone Iâ€™ve ever seen over those three days.”
Super Bowl winner Trent Dilfer, who helps select and train the quarterbacks for those events, agreed with that evaluation.
â€œHe handled this process from the time he was invited up to today as well as Iâ€™ve seen many NFL quarterbacks prepare for training camp,â€ Dilfer told Dawgnation.com. â€œMany. Not just a handful. Many. Truly professional. His work, his note taking, his engagement and the questions he asked, the buy-in or whatever term that you want to use there.â€
â€œWeâ€™ve never seen anything like it.â€
Yogi Roth, the Elite 11 Director, offered up a similarly glowing assessment of Fields that summer, calling him “the best quarterback Iâ€™ve seen in the nine years Iâ€™ve been here.”
Now Fields is with the Buckeyes, and the last year-plus really doesn’t matter. What matters is where he goes from here, and that means getting himself eligible for the 2019 season and being able to compete with Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin to be named Ohio State’s starting quarterback. Neither of those two will back down and each has a built-in advantage: They already know the concepts and expectations of the offense.
All his coach wants is for Fields to have a chance.
“The biggest obstacle now is just learning the offense, getting to know the offense put in front of him and understanding it quickly,” Avery said. “But thatâ€™s what he was able to do with the Elite 11 playbook. Heâ€™s a quick learner and it will make him very successful.
“I just want to see him on the field every play and getting the opportunity to make plays out there. Thatâ€™ll be the cool thing. Heâ€™s going to get every opportunity to win the job.”
No matter who wins it, there’s a new standard at the position. And Fields knows exactly what he’s getting into at Ohio State.