The next two months will be critical for the development of Ohio State’s new quarterbacks, and Ryan Day and Mike Yurcich can only have a limited view of it.
Coaches aren’t allowed to be involved in on-field drills and can meet with players for only eight hours per week until the start of training camp. Only two of those hours can be supervised video study.
That means Justin Fields and the other quarterbacks will have to take the initiative this summer if they are to shorten the learning curve before the Aug. 31 season opener.
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“You only have a certain amount of meeting times, so you hope the individual has that internal drive to be a guy who can work on his own and really be a football junkie on his own,” Yurcich, Ohio State’s passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach, said Wednesday. “There’s only so much time you can meet with him this time of year. You try your best to be organized and maximize your meeting times. It’s important to do that. A lot of (the rest) has to be on their own.”
Yurcich is new this year, and so is almost everyone in his quarterback room. Chris Chugunov arrived last August as a graduate transfer from West Virginia. Dwayne Haskins Jr., Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin have all departed, leaving Chugunov with the most seniority among Ohio State quarterbacks.
Fields, who arrived as a Georgia transfer in January, is the prohibitive favorite to start in the fall. Day took pains during his first spring practice as head coach to emphasize that those 15 practices, including the spring game, were about learning the offense, not securing the starting job.
He still isn’t ready to anoint Fields as the starter, saying Wednesday that Kentucky transfer Gunnar Hoak, a Dublin Coffman graduate, would get snaps with the first team in training camp and has a shot to win the job.
Though coaches can’t physically instruct players on the field, the quarterbacks can use technology to aid their development. Day said, without supplying specifics, that the Buckeyes use virtual reality in that process.
“You can actually take the iPads home and then watch film,” Day said. “We have so much film to go off of the last couple of years. Study in your dorm. It can't just be the eight hours of the week (in meetings with coaches). It's going to be more than that on his own.”
Day said he is impressed with Fields’ work in the weight room and said he has done a good job of studying video.
“You learn through experience,” he said. “He just doesn't have that experience, so we can't substitute that. That being said, we have so many tools and resources in place that he can use to get himself to advance along the way.”
The key word, Yurcich said, is urgency. Even when Fields is throwing to receivers with no coaches present, he wants Fields to take every rep seriously.
“Play urgently,” Yurcich said. “Everything has to be faster — the urgency of your drop, the urgency of your progressions, the urgency to prepare and utilize the day as best you can, to study film with a hunger and a desire to be the best you can possibly be. That's what we're trying to get done with all of our guys.”
Yurcich said he has been pleased with what Fields has shown in that regard. He described his progress as “well ahead of the curve.”
But the key is to keep accelerating the pace of growth. Yurcich and Day have faith that Fields and the other quarterbacks are doing all they can to do so.
“We’ve been blessed with a lot of young men who are conscientious and put the team first,” Yurcich said. “Those are the kind of things you do when you’re a team guy.”