Ryan Day Still Not Ready to Name Justin Fields Starting Quarterback, Says “Nobody Went Out There and Won the Job” in First Scrimmage

By Colin Hass-Hill on August 10, 2019 at 2:42 pm
Justin Fields
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Ryan Day set the targeted date at two weeks.

By the time the Buckeyes have completed 14 days of practices in fall camp, he said at Big Ten media days in late July, he wants to have a starting quarterback. K.J. Hill backed him up, saying after two weeks of preseason camp, “you need to know who your general is on the offensive side.”

Justin Fields entered fall camp as the presumed starter and he remains the likely starting quarterback. But after eight practices in nine days, Day hasn’t pulled the trigger on naming Fields the starter over Kentucky transfer Gunnar Hoak. And given what he said after Saturday’s intrasquad scrimmage, he doesn’t seem to expect to name a starting quarterback for at least another week.

“I thought after today I'd have a better feel. I didn’t,” Day said. “Nobody went out there and won the job for sure. So again, it’s still a work in progress. Hopefully at this time next week somebody steps up and wins the job.”

By this time next week, the Buckeyes will complete their 15th practice, and they’ll be preparing to enter their final week of preseason camp. Ohio State will have reached the end of the second week of preseason camp, which is when Day will want to have a starting quarterback named.

Day not naming a starting quarterback after eight days isn’t a surprise, given that he set the date at two weeks before camp, nor should it cause despair. But that’ll change if the Buckeyes enter the third week of camp without a starter at the position. By then, the benefits of waiting to name a starter would be negligible and questions about why nobody has laid claim to the job would rightfully grow.

The job still remains Fields’ to lose. He has taken the vast majority of first-team reps in practice, almost certainly playing quarterback with the starting offense in Saturday’s scrimmage. That likely didn’t help his case.

Day deemed the defense as the clear winner in the scrimmage, noting the defensive line created penetration and K’Vaughan Pope and Sevyn Banks returned interceptions for touchdowns. He said he was “very disappointed” in the offense's turnovers. However, since the media were unable to watch the practice, it’s unclear which quarterbacks threw the picked-off passes and whether they were poor passes or came as a result of impressive plays made by defenders.

“That's a great question,” Day said. “Because I think once you get on the film, you have to realize and look at and see what exactly was going on. Was it a pressure, was it a route that was run incorrectly or was it just a really good defensive play? That's what we have to look at. I think maybe a little bit of both. I think there's some things we could have cleaned up and been a little bit careful. 

“What happens when you play quarterback in practice, there's no real ramifications for throwing it late in the down, throwing it downfield. If a play is made, it's made. If not, it's the next play in practice. But when you're in scrimmage, you're in the game, we obviously know it could be detrimental to the whole game. We tried to create that environment today, and hopefully some learning lessons there.”

Day doesn’t expect Fields – or Hoak – to look like a veteran in the first week of the season. Over the past month, Day has said multiple times that the defense, offensive line and J.K. Dobbins must step up to make up for the Buckeyes' inexperience at quarterback, especially early in the season.

Eventually, he wants to get to the point where he can lean on his starting quarterback to make big plays in big games. But Day doesn’t need that right now. Ten days into August, all he wants is for somebody – namely, Fields – to step up and prove that they deserve to be named starting quarterback.

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