Justin Fields is transferring from Georgia to Ohio State, he announced on Twitter Friday evening:
Fields, the No. 2 overall recruit in the class of 2018, just finished a disappointing freshman season at Georgia. It ended with him sitting on the bench during a Sugar Bowl loss to Texas.
But Fields’ year wasn’t disappointing in that he underperformed. It was disappointing in that he barely played any big snaps.
Not including sacks, Fields ran 38 times for 294 yards (7.7 per carry) and and four touchdowns. He also averaged 8.4 yards per throw, didn’t get intercepted, and posted a 173 passer rating. But he only threw 39 passes, despite Georgia winning 10 games by three scores or more.
Five-star QBs transfer literally more often than not, and maybe Fields would have left eventually anyway. But UGA’s underutilization of him was puzzling.
He threw one pass across the Dawgs’ three losses — to LSU, Alabama, and Texas — and in the Bama loss, his main usage was to be part of a doomed fake punt that helped cost the Dawgs a Playoff berth.
Georgia’s starting QB, rising junior Jake Fromm, has proven himself to be good. He’s now beaten out two five-stars who have decided to transfer elsewhere: Jacob Eason to Washington and Fields to Ohio State.
But nobody who watched Georgia’s offense in the LSU, Bama, or Texas games could have concluded that giving Fields some opportunity, at some point, would have been a bad idea.
As solid as Fromm’s generally been, he hasn’t shown he can carry Georgia to wins with his arm against elite opposition. Fromm threw more than 24 passes three times this season, and the Dawgs lost all three times. (The most passes he threw in a win: 24.)
Fromm did have a strong passing game in 2017’s Playoff against Oklahoma, but that was against an Oklahoma defense, and it’s been an exception to the usual trend of Fromm not lighting it up through the air in the biggest games.
None of that’s to say Fromm shouldn’t be Georgia’s QB. But is he really so good that Georgia was smart to barely use one of the most touted QB recruits in history? Probably not.
Now, Georgia loses a QB with Heisman upside. Ohio State has to be thrilled.
New Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has quickly built a reputation as one of the sport’s best QB coaches. Dwayne Haskins took the reins of the offense under Day this season, when Day was offensive coordinator, and had the best Big Ten passing season ever, as Ohio State moved away from the spread-to-run scheme it had long used under Urban Meyer.
Haskins is probably off to the NFL now, where he’ll be Ohio State’s highest-picked QB since at least 1982, when Art Schlichter went fourth overall. With Haskins gone, Ohio State has a vacancy at its starting QB spot, and how exciting is the idea of Day getting to work with a QB some analysts thought a year ago was a better prospect than Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence? That’s probably not right, but Fields is still an ultra-high-end talent.
There are some unresolved issues here.
He’s widely expected to request a waiver from the NCAA that would let him play in 2019, rather than sit out a typical transfer year. (USA Today suggested his waiver request could center around a now-dismissed Georgia baseball player’s alleged use of a racial slur toward Fields.) The NCAA has granted these waivers fairly often in the last year, but it’s still hard to guess how it would rule on Fields.
Fields’ arrival will probably create QB drama in Columbus, too. Ohio State’s backup to Haskins is Tate Martell, a rising redshirt sophomore and former blue-chip recruit himself. As rumors about OSU and Fields swirled, Martell was publicly unwelcoming to the idea of him joining up. When talk about Fields and Ohio State was really heating up, buoyed by four-star 2019 recruit Dwan Mathis flipping from OSU to UGA, Martell tweeted this:
word of advice:— TATE MARTELL (@TheTateMartell) December 22, 2018
- don’t swing and miss
... especially not your second time
“You guys know how to take that,” Martell later told reporters of that tweet. Martell also told them he was “100 percent sure” he’d be Ohio State’s starter if Haskins left. He said he could be starting at other schools but wouldn’t leave if Fields showed up.
“Why would I leave for someone who hasn’t put a single second into this program?” Martell said. “I put two years of really working my (butt) off into something that I’ve been waiting for and dreaming of my whole life. To just run away from somebody that hasn’t played a single second, been to workouts or anything like that, doesn’t know what the program is all about? Not a chance.”
But those things aren’t as big a deal to Ohio State as having the best QB it possibly can.
And Day’s now added a QB with huge talent. Whenever he’s eligible, and no matter what happens elsewhere on the depth chart, that’s an exciting thing for the Buckeyes.