Justin Fields: Ohio State’s Next Greatest Star

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Justin Fields the Ohio State quarterback

Justin Fields was the second-best quarterback prospect coming out of high school last year, ranked only behind Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence. Considered a dual threat by most, Fields committed to his home state school, Georgia, and enrolled early last spring. He was unable to beat out Jake Fromm for the starting position and quickly transferred while keeping his red-shirt active.

Fields transferred to Ohio State this spring in hopes of winning the starting job, which it appears he already has. With new head coach Ryan Day looking to continue the Urban Meyer steamroller, Ohio State faces a more daunting challenge than before in the Big Ten with improved teams all across the conference.

Is Justin Fields up to the challenge to continue the line of very successful quarterbacks at Ohio State? With Dwayne Haskins having moved onto NFL ranks, RJ Barrett having played before him, Cardale Jones and Braxton Miller before him, Fields joins a long line of great college level quarterbacks at Ohio State. I dove into some film that we have on Fields to determine if he is the next great at Ohio State.

The honest truth? He might be the best that they have ever had.

The strengths of Justin Fields

I discovered this past week that Fields isn’t just a running quarterback. Fields can play quarterback too. We’re going to look into each individual trait and try to figure out what it is that makes Justin Fields so special.

The ability to take the check down

Ha-ha! What? Seriously, in college football, the ability to take a check down is a huge deal. Young quarterbacks often times find themselves always looking for the big play, wanting to go all out to make that play. Think of almost every great college quarterback: Johnny Manziel, Tua Tagovailoa, etc. These guys always look for the big play and when they find it, as often as they find it, it’s a big play all over SportsCenter.

However, we are going to learn a lot about Fields just from these couple of plays where he takes the check down. The first example: His first throw in the 2018 Georgia spring game.

 

Why is this a big deal?

As I observed in the tweet above, this check down is a big deal. First, Fields looks off the defense. He doesn’t see anything going on in his progressions so he moves to his check down and picks up a positive gain. The speed in his delivery, the amount of time it takes for him to turn-set-throw to the check down running back is incredible, especially considering he had only been practicing with the team for fifteen days prior to this scrimmage.

This is a pro quarterback type play. It takes a professional to take the short gain and live to see another down. It’s not a typical dual-threat/running quarterback play.

Moving onto later in that same scrimmage when he checks it down again:

 

What makes this play truly impressive?

As I noted in the tweet, this play is very impressive because it shows the arm control that Fields has. However, let’s walk through every aspect of this play because there is a lot to digest.

First, Fields senses pressure without taking his eyes off of the play developing down-field. This is not something you normally see in a true-freshman quarterback, especially while facing a defense to the caliber of Georgia’s. This is veteran like presence from Fields, who (again) has only been in this system for fifteen days.

Next, he steps up in the pocket with a lot of green in front of him, still watching the play down-field. As he steps up, a Georgia defensive lineman starts to converge on him from his blindside. He leaps in the air, embracing the contact, and whips a pass over the defenders head to his check down in the flat and picks up a big gain.

Whoa. What? Not only does Fields have the arm control to throw an accurate pass while leaping in the air and not having any plant, but the throw is all arms with no assistance from his hips. He puts this pass right in his running backs hands too, so it’s a very accurate pass.

Lastly, a running quarterback, or a dual threat quarterback, normally would have taken off running. If he broke the tackle of the linebacker playing zone over the middle, he might have gotten ten yards out of the play. There was green grass, yes, but not an open lane to the end zone. Fields quick decision-making recognized this, and Georgia got the maximum gain out of the play because of Fields quick mental processing.

Window Throws

Oh yeah. Fields can throw into some tight windows. Check out this dozie in game action against UMass.

 

This. Throw. Is. Incredible. Wow.

First off, Fields has a blitzing linebacker coming late about to hit him square in the chest. Second, the safety is realizing where the receiver, Riley Ridley, is going and is trying to cut the route off. Fields makes this throw over the crashing linebacker and through the converging safety and covering cornerback. Want to talk about tight windows?

That’s not the only type of window throw that Fields can make. He can also throw farside, across the field. Check out this one from the 2019 Ohio State spring game.

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This is another great throw. It’s a medium range ball, the window is between the cornerback and the sideline. The time frame to make this throw is less than a second. If Fields throws it any bit early or late, it’s either going out bounds, or it’s getting picked off by the cornerback – probably for six points.

Fields not only shows the correct anticipation with this throw and the velocity required to get it to his receiver but the pre-snap reading abilities to see he had this throw from before the play started. Because of the quickness factor of the out route, this is a pre-determined read. He recognized the man coverage and made the correct read, picking up a first down while he was at it.

Running Ability

While I have been mentioning all of the things that Justin Fields does that most dual threat quarterbacks don’t do, now it’s time to discuss what he does do. Example one allows you to see his speed and field vision all at the same time.

 

Let’s break this down, shall we?

This is a designed quarterback run all of the way. From what I can tell, it’s a zone run. He finds the hole, hits it and explodes through the secondary. He does get caught from behind, but has the strength to stand against the swipe attempting to force a fumble. That’s impressive.

He moves very well in the open field. He’s a playmaker too, and it shows on this run.

Here’s another one showcasing his skill set.

 

Justin Fields just outran a speedy Ohio State defense to the corner. Oh boy. People. Go ahead and start calling the press and get ready to give this guy a Heisman in the near future (not for the next two years, unfortunately). He’s going to kill people in the next couple years with these edge runs.

The RPO threat

Do you know why that run opened like that? Because of the RPO threat that Fields brings to the game every single day. His RPO reads are flawless. Observe this one from the Georgia spring game.

 

Justin Fields does this so well. The play, the read, and his throw are so smooth. It’s almost undefendable because his running ability is too much, if you stop the run you need to cover the receiver, and then he might simply hand the ball.

Fields mental processing is so crucial to his success, and he does it so well. He’s not your typical freshman quarterback, Fields is on a whole new level.

The Weaknesses of Justin Fields

There aren’t a whole lot of weaknesses to critique, but there is a glaring one.

Fields really struggles with the deep passes. Of course, the sample size isn’t huge, but from what I have seen of his throws beyond about 20 yards, it leaves a lot to be desired. Observe this throw from the UMass game.

 

Fields needed to put this throw higher and a little farther Isaac Nauta, now an NFL tight end, made this catch look easy but he had to slow down and reach behind him to make it.

From what I have seen, Fields knows that he struggles with deeper passes so he doesn’t normally attempt them. It’s a simple problem that defenses can potentially key in on and make life a little bit more difficult for an offense. If there isn’t a threat that the quarterback will go over the top, defenses send the safeties down and play them closer to the line of scrimmage.

Potentially this could happen to Ohio State. Fields will have to show improved deep ball ability come week one when the Buckeyes open up against Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic, otherwise, it might be a harder season for Ryan Day and company than it needs to be.

Justin Fields is the real deal

Justin Fields has an incredibly gifted skill set, and can certainly dominate Big Ten football this season. I fully expect him to put up ridiculous numbers. His skill set fits Ohio State perfectly with what they want to do on offense. He’s like a younger Jalen Hurts on steroids. His ability is ridiculous.

I think Fields will probably finish 3rd or 4th in Heisman voting this season, and next season he will be right behind Trevor Lawrence. If he develops his deep ball accuracy… People. It’s over.

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