Day unwilling to name Fields starter just yet

Joey Kaufman
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, speaking at the conference media days, feels that Ohio State got the short straw in the past two College Football Playoffs. [Charles Rex Arbogast/The Associated Press]

CHICAGO — The arrival of Justin Fields at Ohio State this year generated a flurry of excitement among the team’s fan base.

Fields had been a top-ranked quarterback recruit in high school before transferring after one season at Georgia. But Ryan Day, the Buckeyes’ first-year coach, has yet to bestow the starting job on Fields.

“One of our core philosophies is that you just don’t get given a starting position,” Day said. “You have to earn everything you get around here. He hasn’t done that.”

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Day has reiterated for months a desire to keep Fields in a quarterback competition that will extend into preseason camp. He took the same position Thursday when he spoke with reporters at Big Ten media days.

If there is a moment on the horizon for Fields to emerge atop the depth chart, it will come next month after a couple of weeks of camp. Day said that was the ideal time frame to settle on a starter.

Otherwise, Day seemed more interested in downplaying expectations for the much-discussed transfer.

“The hard thing for everybody to realize is he’s coming off the heels of Dwayne Haskins,” Day said, referring to the Buckeyes’ former record-setting passer. “So I think a lot of people think Dwayne went from 0 to 60 so fast, he just jumped into the Heisman Trophy race. That was a very different scenario than Justin Fields.”

By contrast, Haskins had signed with Ohio State out of high school and spent two seasons as a backup before emerging as the starter.

Day added, when discussing Fields, “You can’t win the job when you’re still learning the offense.”

Fields must fend off graduate transfers Chris Chugunov and Gunnar Hoak, who have joined the program within the past year. Hoak transferred in May from Kentucky.

If Day sticks with his preferred timetable for picking a starting quarterback, senior receiver K.J. Hill will approve. Hill said he preferred a starter to be chosen by two weeks of camp.

“After those first two weeks, you need to know who your general is on the offensive side,” Hill said, “because that’s the one who’s got to speak up, that’s the one we got to follow.”

Most of the quarterbacks and wide receivers have spent the summer months becoming more acquainted with one another. Hill said they have had throwing sessions “just about every day.”

Playoff talk

In each of the previous two seasons, Ohio State missed the College Football Playoff despite winning the Big Ten.

Jim Delany, the conference’s outgoing commissioner, took issue with the snub during his opening address at media days.

“I'm not sure that the strength of schedule or the conference championship has been adequately rewarded, in my personal view,” Delany said.

Most of his criticism was reserved for the selection committee. Delany pointed out that the playoff’s protocol advised members to give added weight to conference championships.

“The actual language in the founding document says, ‘When comparing teams with similar records and similar resumes, should look at strength of schedule as well as winning conference championships,’” Delany said. “I'll leave it to each individual to see whether or not you believe they have.”

The Buckeyes were sixth in the final rankings last season. They were fifth in 2017, edged by eventual national champion Alabama, which had not won the Southeastern Conference. The Crimson Tide, though, finished with one loss in the regular season and the Buckeyes two.

Quick hits

Ohio State’s final nonconference game, on Sept. 21 against Miami University, will be televised on the Big Ten Network. No kickoff time has been set. … Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins and defensive end Chase Young were among 10 selections on the Big Ten's all-conference preseason team. … Day said junior Tuf Borland, the incumbent starter at middle linebacker, was “being pushed” by sophomore Teradja Mitchell.


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