A former blue-chip quarterback is transferring to Ohio State, which likely signals the departure of Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins Jr. after one record-breaking season as a starter.
Justin Fields, a five-star prospect when he signed with Georgia last year, visited Ohio State on Friday and then announced his commitment to the Buckeyes in a tweet Friday night.
“I’ve decided to transfer to Ohio State University, where I will continue to pursue my undergraduate degree and play football for the Buckeyes,” Fields wrote.
OSU’s spring semester begins Monday.
Fields would not be coming to the Buckeyes if Haskins planned to stay for his junior season. Though Haskins did not make an announcement about his future, that seems to be just a matter of time.
One Buckeye did announce that he would forgo his remaining eligibility. Junior Michael Jordan, who played center in 2018 after starting for two years at left guard, said in a Twitter post that he would enter the NFL draft.
Jordan was a second-team all-Big Ten selection and also was a second-team Walter Camp All-American and a third-team All-American by The Associated Press.
He said at the Rose Bowl that he’d been assured he would return to guard — his more natural position — if he returned for his senior season. But the lure of the NFL proved too strong.
Fields’ interest in Ohio State has been rumored for weeks. The Georgia native signed with his home-state Bulldogs in hopes of unseating incumbent Jake Fromm, who led Georgia to the brink of the College Football Championship last season. But Fromm withstood Fields’ challenge. Fields entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal last month.
He would be the highest-rated quarterback prospect ever at Ohio State, barely surpassing Terrelle Pryor, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. Fields was the second-ranked overall prospect in the 2017 recruiting class, trailing only Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
He is considered a complete prospect, with the ability to make every throw while adding a running element. Those who’ve worked with him consider him a student of the game who learns quickly.
Based on NCAA rules, Fields would have to sit out a year as a transfer. But the NCAA has been increasingly lenient in granting waivers to that rule.
Fields becomes the front-runner to be Ohio State’s starter if Haskins leaves, but he will face determined competition from two holdovers. Tate Martell, a two-time Gatorade national player of the year in high school, declared at Rose Bowl media day that he would be the starting quarterback in 2019 if Haskins departed.
Martell was undaunted by the possibility of Fields’ arrival, saying that Ohio State’s offense under then-offensive coordinator and now coach Ryan Day was too complex for anyone to master without at least a year of experience. He said he wouldn’t transfer from Ohio State.
The Buckeyes also have freshman Matthew Baldwin, who redshirted this year as he recovered from ACL surgery. Day recruited Baldwin out of noted quarterback factory Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas. After the Rose Bowl, Baldwin said he was ready to compete for the starting job.
Whoever takes over will have a high standard to uphold after Haskins’ record-setting season. Haskins completed 70 percent of his passes for 4,831 yards this season in leading the Buckeyes to a Big Ten title and Rose Bowl victory. He averaged 13.0 yards per completion and threw only eight interceptions.
Haskins showed the ability to make almost every throw, from deep balls that hit receivers in stride to precision strikes on crossing routes to touch passes. Though not a naturally gifted runner, Haskins showed a willingness to use his legs for yardage later in the season.
Haskins’ leadership also blossomed as the season progressed. He’s quiet by nature but has an unshakable confidence in himself. He said at one point that he hadn’t been nervous for a game since his sophomore year of high school.
Haskins’ future has been the source of speculation for weeks, with most observers expecting him to opt for the NFL. He is projected to be a first-round pick and likely the top quarterback on draft boards.
He repeatedly said late in the season that he hadn’t made a decision and wouldn’t until he consulted with his family and advisers.
After leading Ohio State to a comeback win over Michigan in 2017 in relief of the injured J.T. Barrett, Haskins prevailed in a battle for the quarterback job with Joe Burrow and Martell. Burrow transferred to LSU after spring practice and became the Tigers’ starter.
Now the quarterback musical chairs has started again.