Justin Fields' transfer to Ohio State may turn out to be a program-changing move.
With Dwayne Haskins exploding for the most prolific passing season in Big Ten history and vaulting up draft boards into the first round, the Buckeyes suddenly needed a new starting quarterback, just as Ryan Day took over as the program's next head coach.
As fate would have it, one of the nation's top quarterbacks happened to be looking for a new team at the same time, and after a short courtship, Justin Fields transferred from Georgia to Ohio State.
The Buckeyes needed a quarterback, and Day got the best one available. That addition, according to Urban Meyer, is what elevated Ohio State to the level of a national title contender.
"People overlook that a little bit," Meyer said at the Fiesta Bowl media day. "That get... That changed it."
"I think he's one of the best players I've ever seen, and Ryan's the best quarterbacks coach I've ever seen."– Urban Meyer
Meyer is intimately aware of the roster challenge Day faced with Haskins' unexpected surge and subsequent departure, because it was his challenge first, before he retired and handed it off to Day.
"You think about the quarterback room after... Because no one expected Dwayne Haskins to leave. He played one year," Meyer said. "When I started hearing he was going to leave, we hit the panic button a little bit because we just didn't have the numbers or the quality in this room."
Haskins' departure left the Buckeyes with three scholarship quarterbacks – Tate Martell, Matthew Baldwin and Chris Chugunov. Martell had already considered transferring even before the 2018 season, Baldwin hadn't played a single competitive snap after a knee injury, and Chugunov was originally brought in to be a fourth quarterback for one season with no expectation that he'd ever be more.
The situation was far from ideal, but Day's solution certainly was.
Day not only addressed the concern at the quarterback position, he brought in the highest-rated player in program history, helped him develop and designed an offense around him. Together, Fields and Day replaced one Heisman Trophy finalist with another.
Meyer sees the Day–Fields duo as a match made in heaven.
"I think he's one of the best players I've ever seen, and Ryan's the best quarterbacks coach I've ever seen," Meyer said. "So you put those two together, and they use him, I think, exceptionally."
This season, Ohio State ranks No. 1 in the country in scoring offense, No. 5 in passing efficiency and No. 5 in total offense while Fields has a best-ever 40-1 touchdown-interception ratio.
"It'll be a challenge of challenges."– Urban Meyer on Ohio state's matchup with Clemson
It's been arguably the most dominant offense in Ohio State history, but on Saturday night, that offense will battle a defense that's been arguably just as good, ranking No. 1 in scoring defense, passing efficiency defense and total defense while forcing interception 22 passes, good for No. 5 in the nation.
Meyer believes Fields will be tested like he's never been tested before.
"This'll be a big challenge," Meyer said. "He's not faced a secondary (like Clemson's). You look all year. Wisconsin's pretty good, but not like this one."
It's arguably the most-anticipated semifinal meeting in the College Football Playoff Era, and it will put both Fields and Day to the test.
"This'll be a challenge of challenges," Meyer said.