Step Back, Breathe
If you haven’t heard by now the NCAA has approved Justin Fields’ waiver for immediate eligibility. He can now play for the Buckeyes in 2019. When this news broke late last week, OSU fans celebrated in a big way. Maybe too big of a way. Some proclaimed the Buckeyes would win the national championship. Others felt the news meant an almost automatic Big Ten championship, and berth in the College Football Playoff. My thinking on all of this is we need to take a step back and breathe.
Right now all the Buckeyes have in Fields is a player with potential. A LOT of potential. But, it is
still just potential at this point. There isn’t a big sample size of game action to give us any real indication of what Fields can actually do. He threw just 39 passes last season, but did complete 27 of them with four touchdowns. He also rushed for another 266 yards on just 42 carries. All of this seems to suggest he has an accurate arm, and can run. But, it is such a small sample size.
Does all of that sound familiar? Before the beginning of the 2018 season we didn’t know a whole lot about Dwayne Haskins either. We knew he had a rocket arm, but there was only a small sample size to go on with him as well. But, what we did have is his performance in leading the Buckeyes to a win over Michigan after J.T. Barrett was injured. When I looked at the way he played that day, it gave me reason to believe he was going to be a good one. We don’t have that kind of game from Fields. He’s still very much an unknown. An unknown with a ton of potential, but still an unknown.
If he is to lead the Buckeyes to the lofty heights some are already expecting he’s going to have to first learn head coach Ryan Day’s offense. From all accounts that’s not the easiest thing to do in a short period. Buckeye quarterbacks have said it takes time to get comfortable with it. While Fields is trying to master the offense he’s going to be doing battle with redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin. He was an early enrollee last year, so he’s had a year to learn Day’s offense. Baldwin is talented with an accurate arm. He’s the same 6’3” as Fields, but is a little lighter at 205 pounds compared to Fields’ 225.
What is the biggest question I have about Fields? It’s this: Is he a good decision maker? I don’t doubt for a second he has a strong, accurate arm, and is a more than capable runner. But, my real concern is how well he reads a defense before, and during a play. I’ll take a less talented quarterback who is a good decision maker over a superb athlete who makes bad decisions any day. How many of you remember Steve Bellisari at quarterback for the Buckeyes? Once you’ve finished wincing you will see what I’m getting at. Superb athlete, but a bad decision maker on the field. Decision making is my biggest concern about Fields.
With all of that being said, I do think he will be the starter on August 31st against Florida Atlantic, and he’s going to be a good one. I think he can be VERY good actually. Notice I said I THINK he can be very good. That’s why I think Buckeye fans need to take a step back and breathe. Let’s all just calm down. There’s a lot that has to happen, and a long way to go before Justin Fields can turn into what we not just think he can be, but we hope he will be.
Still no word yet if Rutgers’ offensive lineman Jonah Jackson, and Texas A&M quarterback Nick Starkel will transfer to Ohio State. I’ve seen reports saying Jackson will be deciding soon. A report from Buckeye Grove says Virginia grad transfer lineman R.J. Proctor will visit Ohio State in early March. He played in 11 of Virginia’s 13 games last season, and made six starts at left guard. It is obvious Ryan Day still feels he needs more along the offensive line.
Buckeye punter Drue Chrisman was very happy to see offensive lineman Enokk Vimahi of Hawaii sign to play for the Buckeyes last week because he’s now no longer the only Mormon on the team. Vimahi is expected to go on a mission at some point during his time at Ohio State. As for Chrisman, he took to Twitter to make it clear he felt all of the punts seen in Super Bowl LIII made it the greatest in the game’s history. If you aren’t aware, Chrisman and the other OSU kickers and long snappers are real characters.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith raised more than a few eyebrows the other day when he said Dwayne Haskins is more of a runner than thrower. Judging from what I saw on Twitter he lost what little credibility he had with that ridiculous statement. The loud and bombastic Smith is one of the endless string of buffoonish clowns ESPN parades in front of the camera, and tries to pass off as experts who are far more intelligent than the viewer.
Speaking of Haskins, the debate over who is the top quarterback in the draft has begun in earnest now that Kyler Murray has officially said he has chosen football over baseball. Murray was the ninth overall pick of last year’s MLB draft by the Oakland A’s, and had received a large signing bonus. But, has decided to go with football. There isn’t a debate as far as I’m concerned. Haskins is the better pick, and will be an outstanding NFL quarterback.
Michigan fans have often questioned just how serious Wolverine head coach Jim Harbaugh takes the Ohio State game. How much importance do the Buckeyes’coaching staff place on the game? They worked on Michigan a bit during their Rose Bowl preparation.
OSU AD Gene Smith has stepped down from the College Football Playoff committee to focus on helping Ryan Day get started. He was replaced by Iowa AD Gary Barta as the Big Ten’s ONLY member on the committee. At some point, I’m going to have a lot to say about the make up of the committee, and how it affects the Buckeyes and Big Ten.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said they might have unknowingly given defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence PED’s. Lawrence tested positive for them, and was suspended for both College Football Playoff games. I’ve made it clear what I think of Swinney, and much like Bobby Bowden, I think he’s snowed the media into thinking he’s a great guy running a spic and span clean program. I looked for this story on ESPN’s website, and did not find a mention of it. Shocker, right? Now that they are starting up the ACC Network, Clemson and the other schools in that conference will get the same kid gloves treatment from them as the SEC receives.
Former Buckeye receiver DeVier Posey has signed with Montreal of the CFL. He won a Grey Cup (the CFL championship) in 2017, and was the championship game MVP. After being cut by the Baltimore Ravens last season he joined the British Columbia Lions for the second half of the CFL season. Another ex-Buckeye has signed with a CFL team. H-back Dontre Wilson has joined the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
For my Ohio Valley readers, Steubenville’s Zach Collaros has re-signed with the Saskatchewan Roughriders of the CFL. This will be his second season with the team, and eighth in the league.
Saquon Barkley of the Giants was named as the NFL’s Rookie of the Year. He ran for over 1,300 yards, and caught 91 passes. The Giants finished 5-11. They would have finished with just about the same record without him. Baker Mayfield, who finished second in the voting, changed the course of a franchise. Sorry to sound like a homer, but Mayfield was the better choice for the award.
The Browns have signed former Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt. He was released by the Chiefs last season when a video surfaced of him shoving a kicking a woman at a Cleveland hotel last February. Why did the Browns sign a guy with this much baggage who will almost certainly be suspended by the league? For one thing, Browns’ GM John Dorsey drafted Hunt when he was in Kansas City. For another thing, what do they have to lose? Oh, trust me, I know some in the public will be outraged at this, and understandably so. But, most NFL fans don’t care. Sorry if that’s a bit calloused, and not politically correct, but it’s true. The overwhelming majority of fans could care less who their team puts in a uniform as long as it helps them win. Winning makes fans happy. Owners want happy fans. Coaches and GM don’t keep their jobs because they oversee a group of choir boys. They keep their jobs by winning, so it doesn’t matter the character of the players involved as long as those W’s pile up. Sorry, but that’s the reality of the NFL.
I thought the AAF got off to a solid start last weekend. The games were competitive overall, and the play was better than I expected. Considering between 70 and 80% of the players have at least some NFL experience I expect the product to improve quickly. I like some of the rules the league features. They’ve done away with kickoffs; possessions now start at the 25-yard line. You can only go for two after a touchdown. The 35-second play clock, and lack of TV timeouts keep the game moving at a very good pace. One interesting twist is you get to hear the discussion between the referee, and the replay official in the booth when a play is challenged.
Former Buckeye Jalin Marshall scored the league’s first-ever touchdown on a pass from quarterback Garrett Gilbert. Marshall had three catches for 51 yards for the game. The former high school quarterback from Middletown also threw a touchdown to Gilbert in his team’s 40-6 win over Atlanta. Another couple of former Buckeyes got onto the final scoresheet for Atlanta. Defensive back Vonn Bell had two tackles, and defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle was credited with one. Ex-Buckeye tight end Marcus Baugh had 2 catches for eleven yards for San Diego in their loss to San Antonio.
Salt Lake City is at Birmingham on Saturday at 2 PM. The game will be carried by TNT. The NFL Network will have Arizona at Memphis later that day at 8 PM. On Sunday, CBS SN has Orlando at San Antonio at 4 PM, and San Diego will play Atlanta at 8 PM on NFL Network.
Are you as tired of the weather in the Great State of Ohio as I am? I’ve had enough of winter. Thank goodness there is still some football to watch.