On Dec. 19, Ohio State fans were naturally excited about the early signing period for football recruiting. While the 2019 recruiting class did not have the numbers of previous Ohio State classes, the Buckeyes were still signing players who they believed would become valuable contributors as early as this fall. Among those players expected to sign with Ohio State was a quarterback from Michigan's Oak Park High School named Dwan Mathis.
As ESPN's Lee Corso would say... "Not so fast, my friend."
Justin Fields, the talented freshman quarterback from Georgia, was rumored to be interested in transferring to Ohio State, which would impact Mathis' decision. Mathis instead committed to the Bulldogs, while Fields announced two weeks later that he was headed to Columbus.
While Ohio State fans are naturally excited about landing one of the best players from the 2018 recruiting cycle, there are still questions that remain regarding Fields, and what impact he may have on the field for the Buckeyes this fall.
1. Will Fields be eligible to play for Ohio State in 2019?
He is already on campus at Ohio State and enrolled in classes. Fields will participate in spring football, at a minimum. What remains to be seen is if he will be granted a hardship waiver that will allow him to play immediately or if he will need to sit out a year, as traditional transfers are required by the NCAA.
Last season, Shea Patterson transferred from Ole Miss to Michigan and was eventually granted a hardship waiver that was made possible with the assistance of both schools as well as the NCAA. Fields' request will reportedly center around an incident during a Georgia game this past season during which he was subjected to racial slurs. While the reason for Fields' waiver request may be known, this is a situation that could take months to resolve. Patterson found out he was granted his waiver in late April. Whenever Fields does formally submit his request, there's no telling how long it will take before a final decision is announced. Fields and Ohio State have no choice but to let the process run its course.
2. Impact on Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin
Dwayne Haskins has already declared for the 2019 NFL Draft. Martell and Baldwin were expected to battle for the starting quarterback job this spring. While Martell was projected as the front-runner, Baldwin was recruited by new Ohio State head coach Ryan Day, and he impressed his teammates while redshirting this past season. But Fields' arrival adds a new element to the quarterback room. Will there be any sort of trickle-down effect? Could Martell and/or Baldwin look into possibly transferring?
3. A test for Ryan Day
While most people expect Fields to eventually win the job, it will bear watching to see how Day handles this situation. Both Martell and Baldwin have teammates who respect them and to simply hand the job to Fields, no matter how talented Fields is as a quarterback, could poison the locker room. Fields has to earn the job, and the only way that can happen is if Day manages this scenario fairly, for all players involved.