COLUMBUS, Ohio – Justin Fields knows all about heat. He grew up in Georgia.
But the pressure cooker in which the celebrated prep quarterback now finds himself is about to get turned up.
The pressure is always crushing on anyone who starts at quarterback for Ohio State. But Fields, who transferred from Georgia last winter, is expected to pick up where record-breaking Heisman Trophy candidate and first-round NFL draft pick Dwayne Haskins Jr. left off.
Fields, a 20-year-old sophomore, has never started a college game. He saw only limited playing time as a freshman, mostly in mop-up duty behind Jake Fromm.
He comes to Ohio State with great expectations and great hype. He is said to have nearly the arm that Haskins does but with the speed and elusiveness his predecessor lacks.
New Ohio State coach Ryan Day is the first to note that Fields must still earn the starting job. But that's really just a formality.
“Physically, he checks all the boxes – running, athleticism, size, power, throwing ability, arm strength, accuracy, intelligence,” Day said. “He has all those things. Now it's just a matter in August of putting on the field and seeing what kind of product we have.
“But in order to learn, you have to fail,” Day continued. “Unfortunately, we don't have the luxury of failing a lot in practice and spending a few years as an understudy. Some of those failures are going to happen in a game, and there's going to be a lot of deep breaths.”
In the months after spring practice, Fields put in his work.
He threw with his receivers nearly every day.
“Right when you come into a new place you can't just come in and just act like you're a leader,” he said. “You have to kind of get used to the guys and build relationships with them so they trust you. Then you can step out and become a leader.”
Austin Mack is expected to be one of Fields' top targets. The Bishop Luers graduate also has something to prove after missing the final six games last year with a foot injury. He was hurt in the loss to Purdue, a defeat that kept OSU out of the playoffs.
Mack said he and fellow senior receivers K.J. Hill and Binjimen Victor have taken it upon themselves to help the new guy get up to speed.
“He came from Georgia so he came from a good program that's used to winning,” Mack said. “He's been there, he knows what it's like. He just doesn't know our culture. So the biggest thing for us is to help get him acclimated, get him used to being in that huddle. Like, 'Hey bro, speak up, you're good, take control.' ”