“I think he was a little nervous coming out for the spring game,” Hill said with a smile. “I asked him and he [was] like, ‘Nah,’ but I know he was. I feel like he got comfortable after the first series. He started stepping up in the pocket and going through his reads looking like he had been practicing all spring.” MORE: Ohio State schedule, roster, recruiting, questions heading into seasonFields simply needed to make an adjustment after the first two series in which he missed his only two pass attempts. From there, he guided four consecutive TD drives in the Gray team’s 35-17 victory over the Scarlet team and offered a glimpse of a what could be a blend of Ohio State’s last two record-setting quarterbacks.Fields can run like J.T. Barrett, and if he can throw like Haskins, then the Buckeyes will be national championship contenders in 2019. For now, Fields — who finished 4 of 13 passing for 131 yards and a touchdown and added six carries for 38 yards and a score — is tasked with accelerating his growth in Ryan Day’s high-powered offense, to the point he’s listed among the Heisman Trophy favorites with Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa despite a self-awareness that he has no idea how good he will be. “I’m not sure because I don’t know the full playbook yet,” Fields said. “The stuff we have in right now, I feel like I have a grasp around it.” This, of course, was just a spring game, but it did not start out well. Fields appeared to injure his hand on the second series when Taron Vincent hit his arm. Fields returned and set up a red-zone touchdown run by Master Teague drive with his first completion, a short pass to Binjimen Victor. Fields and Victor later hooked up on the play of the game, a 98-yard connection on third-and-10 in the final two minutes. Fields lofted a pass down the right sideline to Victor, who broke free after the catch to the end zone. Folks, Justin Fields. pic.twitter.com/j99UYrYiZS— Eleven Warriors (@11W) April 13, 2019″His wingspan is something crazy,” Field said of Victor. “You can throw it wherever and he’s going to come down with it.”MORE: Sporting News’ pre-preseason top 25 for 2019That was Fields’ press conference afterward — at the same podium where Barrett and Haskins fielded questions about the starting job at Ohio State in recent seasons. Fields followed their pattern in that regard. He deflected credit to teammates. He talked about being a better and more effective vocal team leader. He described the spring as an “up-and-down” process. Day, meanwhile, was not ready to declare Fields the starter. Matthew Baldwin split time between the Scarlet and Gray teams. He finished 20 of 36 for 246 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. “I’m going to keep looking at it,” Day said. “I don’t think right there we are going to make a decision on that. It will continue into the preseason.” This still feels like the Haskins-Joe Burrow dynamic from last season. It will be almost impossible to turn away from Fields’ playmaking ability, especially if he continues to be more proficient and prolific with it. Fields led those four touchdown drives in four different fashion. He completed a red-zone score and a deep vertical shot. Fields also led a methodical eight-play drive capped by his own 5-yard touchdown run. He opened the third quarter with a 30-yard run that set up another Teague scoring run. Fields said he’s comfortable with the read-option knowing he has been doing that since high school. “For Justin, he can create on the edge a little bit, we didn’t get a chance to see that as much,” Day said. MORE: Early predictions for the 2019 seasonIn a controlled scrimmage where the quarterbacks don’t get hit, that makes sense. The key for Fields, however, will be continued improvement in the passing game. That is what took Alabama to the next level with Tagovailoa and Clemson into another dimension with Lawrence. While Fields’ progress will be closely linked with Jake Fromm and Georgia, it’s those national championship contenders that Ohio State must close the gap on while also maintaining their stranglehold on the Big Ten. Haskins got the Buckeyes close. Fields will be expected to get them closer. That’s not how Fields see it, however. “I’m not trying necessarily to fill Dwayne’s shoes,” Fields said. “I’m just trying to come to Ohio State be the best quarterback I can. Whatever I can do to help this team win. I’m not worried about expectations or anything like that.” He’s just trying to learn the rest of the playbook before fall camp. Fields is working with a solid group of receivers in Hill, Victor, Austin Mack and five-star freshman Garrett Wilson. There is potential for a few more record-setting seasons with that group. “A lot of the concepts are the same, but it’s just the route-running and little details in it,” Fields said. “Once I get that fully down, I think it will take me up to a whole different level, and I can really start showing what I can do.” MORE: Big Ten early conference primerAs for the high-pressure environment, Fields embraced George, Haskins, the national championship team and all those fans. COLUMBUS, Ohio — Eddie George, the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner, chatted with Joey Galloway on the sideline. Dwayne Haskins, a Heisman Trophy finalist and a first-round NFL Draft pick-in-waiting, stood a few yards nearby at midfield. Members of the 2014 national championship team milled around the sideline in front of 61,102 at Ohio Stadium, a crowd that would have been much bigger if not for ongoing construction in the upper deck. All were there for Ohio State’s spring game Saturday.Yet the center of attention was Justin Fields, the quarterback who transferred from Georgia this offseason and is expected to be the next Big Ten thing. Fields felt all of that. K.J. Hill, Ohio State’s top returning receiver, tried to pry a little bit from him before the game started. “That’s good for the recruits, just seeing how many NFL players Ohio State produces,” Fields said. “It was good seeing those guys coming back and supporting (the team). That just tells you how much they love the fan base and coming around here.” Fields appears to understand that, and that will serve him well the next time he walks out of the tunnel at Ohio Stadium. There will be at least 40,000 more people watching him in the opener against Florida Atlantic on Aug. 31.
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- Justin Fields eyes big picture after giving Ohio State a first look in spring game