Four Players Who Will Be Impacted by Justin Fields' Eligibility This Season

By David Wertheim on February 9, 2019 at 8:45 am
Justin Fields

Ohio State officially added a signal-caller for the 2019 season when Justin Fields was ruled eligible by the NCAA to play immediately, ending all speculation that arose when Fields decided to transfer from Georgia.

Fields is basically locked in to start at quarterback on opening day against Florida Atlantic for the Buckeyes, and with his eligibility, a few of his teammates will be significantly impacted as well, as we will examine here.

J.K. Dobbins

Dobbins has had an up-and-down first two seasons at Ohio State. In his true freshman campaign, he rushed for 1,403 yards on 194 carries (7.2 avg), with seven touchdowns. Last year, he took a bit of a step back, rushing for 1,053 yards on 230 carries (4.6 avg), although he did find the end zone ten times.

Dobbins seemed to thrive with J.T. Barrett, a quarterback who was adept at running the ball himself. With pass-first Dwayne Haskins under center, Dobbins' numbers suffered (and the entire Ohio State rushing attack followed suit). 

Now, with Fields under center, Ohio State once again has a quarterback who is capable of running the football when necessary. It is for that reason that I predict that Dobbins will be closer (albeit not all the way back) to his freshman numbers. In addition, Mike Weber is gone, as is Brian Snead, so there aren't many options to tote the rock in Columbus right now. Dobbins should be a bell-cow, and a good one at that. 

K.J. Hill

Hill was Mr. Dependable last season catching passes from Haskins, as he recorded 70 receptions for 885 yards and six touchdowns.

It was a surprise to many when Hill decided to come back for his fifth season as a redshirt senior, but Ohio State will take it. Hill is expected to be "the guy" this year following the departures of Terry McLaurin, Parris Campbell, and Johnnie Dixon, and his leadership will go a long way with Fields, a young first-time starter who has all the talent in the world. 

It is for this reason that Hill should have a monster year catching passes from Fields as his go-to receiver as well as his security blanket. Hill runs a lot of short crossing routes in the middle of the field, and is almost always open on them, leaving Fields with a sure option most of the time that he will certainly utilize. If you want a bold prediction, I think it's possible that Hill catches 100 passes with Fields under center. 

Matthew Baldwin

Of course, Fields' eligibility isn't good news for everybody. His impending arrival already scared off one quarterback to South Beach (not a bad place to get scared off to, in my opinion).

Baldwin arrived from Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas as a raw quarterback with a really nice arm, similar to Haskins, and really to Fields himself. After Martell left, it was expected that Baldwin would be lining up under center against Florida Atlantic had Fields not been ruled eligible. Of course, the NCAA ruled in favor of Fields, meaning Baldwin will be relegated to second-string bench duty.

However, as we've seen before, backup quarterbacks have played a big part in recent Ohio State history, so Baldwin should be ready whenever called upon.

The Entire Offensive Line

One of the problems with Dwayne Haskins was his lack of mobility at times (unless you're Stephen A. Smith, who has clearly never watched Dwayne Haskins play a football game).

Haskins' lack of a running ability forced the offensive line to play in different ways, and it hurt the rushing attack as well as the offensive line play at times, it seemed. 

Now, with a quarterback who is mobile once again, it should help the Ohio State offensive line tremendously in that Fields will be able to pick up the slack every once in a while with his legs. This should also open the door, as mentioned above, for the overall rushing attack to improve.

Overall, it seems as though Ohio State should be better off in their rushing attack with Fields under center than they would be with Baldwin (or then they were with Haskins). It will be interesting to see how Fields develops a rapport with certain wide receivers, and the relationships that he builds in his first round of practices with the Buckeyes this spring will go a long way in the fall.

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