National Signing Day is generally all about the next big thing (or things) coming out of high school, but that was not the case at Ohio State on Wednesday.
Sure, there were lots of people interested in talking to the early-enrollees from the Buckeyes’ 2019 class, but a youngster who already has a college season under his belt drew the most attention.
That would be Justin Fields, a sophomore quarterback who transferred from Georgia in January.
As the 2018 five-star prospect fielded questions for 25 minutes or so, a few themes emerged:
1. Head coach Ryan Day is a big reason he is at Ohio State.
Specifically, Day’s pro experience (he coached quarterbacks for the Eagles and 49ers) drew Fields to the Buckeyes.
“He knows what it takes to get quarterbacks to the NFL, so just the offensive mind he has, I can tell that he’s a smart guy so that’s why,” Fields said.
He also called Day a players’ coach.
“He builds great relationships with the players,” Fields said. “You see the support with the players. I talked to guys who were here before and they said they liked him as a coach. That was another reason why.”
2. Dwayne Haskins gets a major assist.
Ohio State’s 2018 quarterback, who set Big Ten records for passing yards and touchdowns last season en route to being named league MVP, helped attract Fields in multiple ways.
Because the two are friends who have worked out together, he could give Fields an insider’s view of the program, and that appears to have had a major impact on his decision to move to Columbus.
“Yeah, me and Dwayne, we’re pretty close friends. And I would say talking with him and getting a grasp of what Coach Day is like and what (Haskins) told me.”
Haskins’ record-setting season served as testimony to the effectiveness of Day’s teaching, too.
“It was great to see what he did last year and I’m just hoping to do the same thing.”
3. He did not want to talk about leaving Georgia.
Fields praised Bulldogs starter Jake Fromm and deftly sidestepped a question about which program has the better wide receivers.
Although he did not have anything bad to say about the Bulldogs, but a few of his statements did provide some contrast between OSU and UGa.
“I can definitely tell up here it’s a more player-friendly culture,” Fields said. “The coaches up here call you week-to-week or day-by-day and check up on you to see how you’re doing and if you’re getting used to stuff and things like that. So, I’ve enjoyed talking to the coaches. Not really all about football, but just kind of about life, pretty much.”
He also noted Columbus provides a more urban setting than Athens, Ga.
“But I really like the city and the people around classes,” Fields said. “I’ll walk to class and I’ll get an ‘O-H’ and I’ll yell ‘I-O’ back. And people have been asking me for pictures. So, that’s been pretty good.”
4. Fields does not expect to be handed the starting quarterback job.
If eligible to play this fall (see below), he will compete with redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin and senior Chris Chugunov, and that is fine with Fields.
“Coach Day didn’t promise me anything,” Fields said. “He told me I would have to come here and work for it. So I’m just looking forward to getting better.”
“Matthew is a great guy and a great competitor. I can tell through what we’ve been doing that he’s smart in the film room, and he’s just a nice guy overall.
“This offense is kind of different from Georgia, but I also think being in that Georgia pro-style offense, that has prepared me for this offense. And of course I have some things to learn, but I hope I can get them down and get started quickly.”
5. He is no more or less sure than anyone else if he will be eligible to play this fall.
Transfer students generally have to spend a “year in residence” before being able to play at their new school, but Fields has applied for a waiver and enlisted a lawyer to present his case.
He did not want to discuss the details of his case, but he said he is waiting around like everyone else for the results.
"I'm not sure about that right now,” Fields said. “I'm just trying to get to know the guys better and learn the system and focusing on this season. I'm just focused on being the best quarterback I can be.”
His lawyer has indicated publicly a decision could come this month, but Fields didn’t know any more than that, either.
"I'm hoping I'll find out soon so we can get all of this behind us and I can really just focus on the team and getting better,” he said.