After a sophomore season chock-full of individual and team success, Justin Fields has battled an unusual offseason to get the chance to do it again.
The Ohio State junior quarterback has not shied away from using his voice during the extended offseason, but he has continued to prepare for an opportunity to play. Posting 51 touchdowns and 3,757 total yards during the 2019 season, Fields is focused on using his developed leadership and skills to navigate an abbreviated season.
“First off, Justin has had an unbelievable offseason, really happy that he is going to be able to play, because college football, Buckeye Nation and even us as coaches to see him play for only one year would’ve been really tragic,” head coach Ryan Day said Thursday on the “Ryan Day Show” on 97.1 The Fan. “So now we get to see him play, which is great. I know he’s got some unfinished business he feels like, so that was great to see.”
Fields ended his sophomore campaign doing something he had done little of all season: turn the ball over.
Following a 29-23 defeat to Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl and a No. 3 finish in Heisman Trophy voting, Fields said his drive will be evident in his work ethic and play.
“I don’t think there are words to describe how determined I am, but I think it shows with the stuff I do, how I carry myself in the facility, how I work on and off the field,” Fields said Friday in a Zoom call with media members.
With concerns surrounding COVID-19, Fields’ presence on Ohio State’s roster was not a given. Graduate transfer quarterback Jamie Newman left Fields’ former team, the Georgia Bulldogs, to focus on the NFL draft.
Fields is projected to be a top pick in the 2021 NFL draft, but despite professional opportunities ahead, Day said his No. 1 quarterback has remained focused on his collegiate aspirations.
“He could’ve packed his bags and left,” Day said Saturday on Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff.” “He never wavered once. He never even thought about leaving. He looked me in the eye and said, ‘Coach, the NFL will come one day. I want to win a national championship with this team and I want to win a Heisman trophy.’ And that was it. We didn’t have another conversation.”
Day said that leadership was one of the things he challenged Fields to work on during the offseason. Grading the junior’s leadership progression as an “A-plus,” Day has also worked with the Georgia native on the field as well.
In the aftermath of the Big Ten’s Aug. 11 decision to postpone the fall football season, Fields said he continued to work with Day.
Throwing on the field and reviewing film to correct mechanics, Fields said that the one-on-one training with Day over the past month helped him.
“I think I learned a lot from him –– just seeing the way he thinks and the way he watches film. And just sitting down with him and communicating with him, really just learning from him, because he’s had experience in the NFL,” Fields said.
Day served as the quarterbacks coach for both the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers. In his time at Ohio State, Day has worked with quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins, J.T. Barrett and Joe Burrow, who transferred to LSU after graduating.
Helping in the progression of Fields and the other Ohio State quarterbacks is quarterbacks coach Corey Dennis.
Working with Dennis for three years, Day said that the pair’s ability to speak a similar football language is important when working with quarterbacks.
“The issues that I’ve seen in my years of coaching for the quarterback is when you start to get different points of view,” Day said. “When it’s one voice and things are taught one way then the quarterback has clarity when he’s out there.”
Day said that Fields has also put extra work in during the offseason, including changing his diet.
Fields, like many of his teammates, are striving to redeem the shortcoming of last season.
Although the reduced schedule may create no room for error when vying for one of the four playoff spots, Fields is focused on the Oct. 24 start date –– when the Buckeyes will open the season at home against Nebraska.
“I just think if we handle business like we’re supposed to on the field, everything will take care of itself,” Fields said. “Our job is to go out there and play our best game and just go about it one game at a time.”