Justin Fields arrived for his debut at Ohio Stadium on Saturday in lockstep with his predecessor.
Hours before the start of Ohio State’s spring game, Fields walked off the team’s bus and approached the home locker room alongside Dwayne Haskins Jr., the former record-setting quarterback for the Buckeyes.
Haskins slung an arm around Fields’ shoulder, looking as if he was ready to issue a quick pep talk.
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The moment was not the first time Haskins imparted advice for Fields, who transferred from Georgia in the offseason in an effort to take over for him as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback.
“I always tell Justin, being the Ohio State quarterback is different than being at Georgia, or Alabama, or LSU,” Haskins said the following day. “The love for this university in Ohio runs deep. You have to have the understanding of that, and once he does, I feel like he'll appreciate it that much more.
“Of course, I can tell him about the X's and O's, what it's like to be a quarterback, what he needs to do to be better, or to be where he wants to be. But once he understands how important it is to be a quarterback here, it'll help him go forward.”
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Fields directed the first-team offense in front of an announced crowd of 61,102 at the spring game. The sophomore signal caller was far from flawless on the big stage in the Horseshoe for the first time. He completed 4 of 13 passes for 131 yards and a touchdown, with 98 coming on one pass, and ran for 52 yards and a touchdown.
Wide receiver K.J. Hill observed that Fields might’ve been “a little nervous.” The intense fan pressure leaves a new feeling.
Fields and Haskins first forged a relationship last summer when they trained with private quarterbacks coach Quincy Avery in Georgia. And when Fields contemplated potential transfer destinations in December, he spoke with Haskins, ultimately deciding on Ohio State as Haskins left school to enter the NFL draft.
Though Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said this offseason's quarterback competition will continue into preseason training camp in August, Fields is considered the favorite to earn the starting nod over Matthew Baldwin and follow in Haskins’ footsteps.
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Haskins remained in Columbus over the weekend as he hosted a youth football camp Sunday afternoon at his old practice field at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
While his professional career is to begin later this month when he is picked in the NFL draft, Haskins said he hoped to keep close ties with Ohio State’s football program.
Day, who was his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, replaced Urban Meyer as head coach, leaving a familiar face on campus.
“Being able to come back to this university, still being able to have a relationship with Coach Meyer, being able to walk into Coach Day's office, is something that you always want as a former football player at Ohio State,” Haskins said. “I'm just grateful that they embrace me so much and they support me.”