COLUMBUS — Ohio State football coach Ryan Day did what has been expected since the day Justin Fields enrolled in January. He named the Georgia transfer OSU’s starting quarterback on Monday.
The former 5-star recruit’s competitors for the starting position were Chris Chugunov, who started two games at West Virginia in 2017, and Gunnar Hoak, who was Kentucky’s back-up quarterback last season.
But even as he made the announcement, Day hedged his bets.
“All this means is that Justin is taking the first snap in the Florida Atlantic game (Ohio State’s opener on Aug. 31). If Justin doesn’t do what he’s supposed to do, someone else is going to have an opportunity. That’s all that means right now. But he earned it, he deserves it and we’re all going to support him,” Day said.
The OSU coach said Fields earned the job by improving over the course of preseason practice the last two weeks.
“After the first week he really wasn’t there. He made some mistakes, turned the ball over. Right now he’s starting to scratch the surface. I still don’t think he’s where he needs to be. After this week I think he played at a starter level and earned the job. We’ll see where it goes from here,” Day said.
“I think anytime you’re naming a starter they have to earn it. You don’t just give somebody a job. I never believed in that, never will. You have to earn it.”
He said Fields’ improvement has been “a little bit of everything.”
“I think his reads and his eyes have been much better, where he’s going with the football. His timing and understanding the offense, the more reps (repetitions) he gets. I also think he’s getting a better feel for throwing in the pocket. He’s got a strong arm, he’s done a pretty good job with his accuracy the last couple weeks. He can create. When he does create, he has to know there there are times to take a chance and there are times you’ve got to throw it away or eat it. That’s just managing the game.”
Day called the expectations about what Fields can do “almost ridiculous.”
“But it’s the same thing as being head coach at Ohio State. It’s what you signed up for. We’re here for a reason,” he said.
Ohio State also named seven captains on Monday: safety Jordan Fuller, defensive ends Jonathan Cooper and Chase Young, linebacker Tuf Borland, running back J.K. Dobbins and wide receivers K.J. Hill and C.J. Saunders.