Haskins Out, Fields In

By Jeff Rapp, January 8th, 2019

On Saturday during the Ohio State men’s basketball game with Michigan State, Urban Meyer was honored and offered a wave and salute to crowd, which appreciated his seven-year mark of 83-9 and win in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.

It turned out the game also provided the setting for another changing of the guard of sorts as OSU quarterback Dwayne Haskins sat courtside with his buddy Justin Fields and Meyer.

Reports had surfaced the day prior that Fields, a five-star prospect and high school star before landing at Georgia last year, had decided to transfer to Ohio State.

That, of course, led to rejoicing in Columbus along with intense speculation about Haskins’ impending decision as well as the fate of OSU backup QB Tate Martell.

By Monday afternoon, there wasn’t much left to ponder regarding Haskins – the Big Ten’s Silver Football winner and Heisman Trophy finalist announced he was seeking early entry into the draft and thanked Ohio State fans with a thoughtful Twitter post, saying, “They say that dreams come true and when they do, that there’s a beautiful thing… Scarlet & Gray Forever #BuckeyeNation #ThankYou.”

Haskins is expected to be a top-10 pick in the draft, which likely is the main reason why he decided to make the leap. Presuming OSU defensive end Nick Bosa is completely healthy and does well in workouts, it’s possible that both he and Haskins could be selected in the top five, perhaps even 1-2. If Haskins is the first quarterback tabbed in the draft it’s very possible he won’t fall below the sixth overall pick, currently the property of the New York Giants or seventh, which is Jacksonville’s pick.

Certainly, the body of work is strong as Haskins broke a plethora of team and Big Ten passing records in 2018 while the Buckeyes posted a 14-1 record. The redshirt sophomore completed 70.0 percent of his passes and threw for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns – each of those figures tops in the nation – while tossing just eight interceptions.

His 50 TDs set an all-time Big Ten mark for a single season and he also owns the record for TDs responsible for in a single campaign with 54 when adding his four scores on the ground.

For decades, Ohio State’s program was not known for prolific passing, but with Troy Smith breaking a long drought of Big Ten QBs winning Heisman Trophy in 2006 and recent offensive explosions in Columbus, that narrative has changed. Haskins’ total of TD passes surpasses a conference mark set by Drew Brees; and his gaudy number of passing yards moved him ahead of Curtis Painter, another Purdue QB.

The 50 touchdown passes are the most for any FBS player in a single season since Sam Bradford in 2008.

While Haskins was overshadowed by Oklahoma signal caller Kyler Murray and Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, the winner and runner-up for the 2018 Heisman, he still garnered lots of hardware including notice as Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and the conference’s Quarterback of the Year. He also was a Walter Camp and Davey O’Brien Award semifinalist, and a Manning Award finalist.

The 6-3, 215-pound Haskins was named a third-team All-American by The Associated Press. He has a chance not only to be a high draft pick like Art Schlichter in 1982 (fourth overall), he figures to get every opportunity to play and thrive on the professional level. That’s heady stuff considering he didn’t have the starting job nailed down a year ago.

After the departure of longtime starter J.T. Barrett, Meyer announced Haskins, Joe Burrow and Martell would do battle for first-string duties in the offseason. After Burrow realized he had been nosed out, he left the program and eventually transferred to LSU. Martell hung on and found a role as an occasional changeup, even in certain red-zone situations.

The emergence of Haskins the college star in some regards surpassed all reasonable expectations for him. He came to campus as a ballyhooed recruit and drew immediate praise from Meyer, but he still was four-star prospect who redshirted as a true freshman. OSU fans were happy to see him decommit from Maryland, his home state school, in May 2015 and sign with the Buckeyes in February 2016, but they weren’t sure when and if they’d see him on the field.

Haskins appeared to be close to, but possibly slightly behind, Burrow heading into the 2017 season. However, Burrow suffered a hand injury, paving the way for Haskins to become Barrett’s more ready backup. He played in eight games that season to Burrow’s four and threw for 565 yards and four scores. Haskins also came up huge in a win at Michigan, stepping in for an injured Barrett and making winning plays down the stretch of a 31-20 victory.

Martell arrived as the Gatorade National Player of the Year and no doubt hoped to have at least the same type of impact, if not a bigger one. He ended up completing 23 of 28 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown, and ended up third on the team in rushing with 128 yards and two more scores.

Still, analysts question Martell’s downfield throwing ability and wonder if new head coach Ryan Day wants to proceed relying primarily on Martell’s legs and a series of run-pass options.

Fields Next In Line?

That mystery may have been addressed considering Day just hired Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich to run the OSU offense and that he is welcoming Fields with open arms.

Fields also is athletic and not yet polished as a collegiate passer. Plus, he’s got some work to do to be considered eligible for the upcoming 2019 season. He was on the wrong end of a racial epithet which caused the University of Georgia to dismiss a member of its baseball team, an incident that could impel the NCAA to grant Fields’ request for immediate eligibility.

Still, the sentiment is that he’ll have every chance to wrest the job from Martell and redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin.

Even if Fields is able to play this fall, it’s highly likely Day will declare the quarterback position as wide open. But Fields figures to have a chance to make an immediate case.

Listed 6-3 and 225 pounds, the Kennesaw, Ga., product was ranked as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 2 overall recruit in the country in the 2018 class, per the 247Sports Composite.

As a true freshman at Georgia this past season, Fields served as the backup to sophomore starter Jake Fromm. Fields played in 12 of Georgia’s first 13 games during the 2018 season and was 27 of 39 passing (69.2 percent) with four touchdowns and no interceptions. He added 266 rushing yards (6.3 yards per carry) and four more TDs, enough to be named to the SEC All-Freshman team.

At Harrison High School, Fields was a two-year starter (2016-17) and was named the Under Armour All-America Game. He was also the MVP of the Elite 11 QB competition.

In his high school career, he threw for 4,187 yards, rushed for 2,096 yards and accounted for a whopping 69 touchdowns (41 passing, 28 rushing). Like Murray, Fields also was a promising high school baseball player while in high school who could have opted to pursue that sport at the next level.

Fields befriended Haskins while each of them were seeking offseason turtoring from QB guru Quincy Avery. Reports claim that Fields immediately gave Ohio State serious consideration after conversations with Haskins about the program and his relationship with the coaches.

Avery also appears to be an admirer of Day and is said to be very much on board with the decision.

Fields, of course, will need to gain his eligibility first and then quickly showcase his skills to become Haskins’ successor. Even if he does all that and plays at a high level, he’ll have a long way to go to even approach the numbers and blazing efficiency Haskins just displayed.