In week four of his sophomore season, Fields is providing an exception so far.
Though Fields was unhappy with his performance as Ohio State beat Indiana 51-10 last week, his coach said the Georgia native is coming along just fine.
“When somebody with that little experience comes into a situation like playing quarterback at Ohio State, there's just a lot of things that go on,” head coach Ryan Day said. “There's a lot of things that he needs to handle, and so far he's handled them.”
Miamisburg native anchors a mostly new group
Fields, the No. 2 recruit in the country two years ago, arrived at Ohio State with some experience. He played in 12 games at Georgia last fall and completed 27 of 39 passes, mostly in mop-up duty for the SEC East champions.
However, pressure-free snaps at the end of blowouts are much different than meaningful ones while the game is in doubt, as is having the weight of a team (not to mention the expectations of a fanbase) on one’s shoulders not just for 60 minutes but an entire fall.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for a quarterback is learning to play not just from the pocket but from one in which things are going wrong.
Such conditions are hard to simulate even in practice because of a desire to keep the quarterback healthy, leading to a necessity of learning on the job in front of tens of thousands of people in the stadium and millions more watching at home.
The social media cauldron is always waiting to boil over, too, so a lot feels like it is at stake regardless of the opponent.
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Fields, by his own admission, missed some throws against the Hoosiers, and he felt the same way after reviewing the film.
“There’s too many throws I missed on Saturday, but again, that's just that's just about me, and I've been working on that,” he said. “Just seeing just seeing all the improvements I can make, I think it'll definitely help my game."
Like Day, Ohio State quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich sounded happy with how Fields has handled everything so far.
"Well, I don't go into it with any any preconceived notions. Take it for what it is and try to get better every day. I know that's coach-speak, and what we're trying to do is just find ways to improve every day,” Yurcich said. “Every practice and every game film that we review, find ways to get better. How can we help him become the best quarterback that he can be? You know, we're not there yet, and the best part is, he knows that there's a lot of room to improve. So it's fun working with him. It's fun working with coach Day, and we just need to keep on the path that we're on, just be consistent in our approach on a day-to-day basis.”
Mike Yurcich is happy with Justin Fields so far
As for specifics, Yurcich highlighted eyes and feet.
“Make sure your eyes are right, your eyes are where they need to be,” Yurcich said. "You're focused on whatever movement key it is, whatever specific route we're running, or whatever specific coverage it is, we're going against, make sure your eyes are where they need to be. And then make sure your feet are where they need to be. Be in rhythm, be on balance, and then throwing the ball with good timing is very important."
As for Fields’ assessment of the state of his development, he struggled to come up with the right word but still managed to get his point across.
“Kind of what I expected,” he said. “I mean, I know I came in here with kind of a mindset where I have to do all I can to be the best player I can be. So just seeing myself where I am right now, it's not surprising, but it's definitely... like, I guess, I don't know the word, but I'm just glad to be be in the place I am right now. So..."
The place he is right now is all he needs to be for the Buckeyes with one more nonconference game on tap Saturday at home against the Miami RedHawks.
That won’t be the case forever, of course.
“He’s going to quickly learn here at Ohio State, the more you win, the more the stakes get higher and higher, and the more is expected,” Day said. “That all comes with it, but he's got a good head on his shoulders. I think he handles it well. He's got good poise, and he and Mike got to get in that room and just keep on working on getting better.”