By: Vinnie Calderone | @CenzoNFL
The doubt surrounding Ohio State signal-caller Justin Fields was evident after the Buckeyes quarterback struggled against Northwestern in the B1G Championship. That doubt certainly created some fuel for his fire, which he confirmed following the Ohio State Buckeyes victory over Clemson on New Year’s Day, 49-28. The Clemson defense and defensive coordinator Brett Venables had no answer for Fields, as he sliced and diced them up, despite dealing with bruised ribs. Fields was precise with his throws and made virtually no mistakes besides an interception in the first half. The biggest thing that most NFL scouts and front office personnel will notice is that Fields looked much more confident than he did in recent weeks.
The Buckeyes quarterback was injured by a clear targeting call early in the game, which sent linebacker James Skalski to the sidelines for the rest of the game. Fields was forced to play through the discomfort, wincing with every drop back. That didn’t stop him from throwing for 385 yards and six touchdowns. His reads, progressions and pre-snap work were all spectacular in the win. He saw the field beautifully, which is a credit to what he said earlier in the week. “I feel like everything happens for a reason. What happened in those games and me not playing as well as I wanted to, maybe God was sending me a message that I need to do more and work harder. So that is kind of how I am looking at it. I am looking at it as a challenge.” (Eleven Warriors)
Fields indeed accepted the challenge on Friday night. We saw a different quarterback, which has to be credited to the work he put in all week. “For this game, I have been preparing my butt off. I have not prepared like this the whole season. So maybe I played the way I did because God was trying to tell me, for this game, that I need to lock in and prepare for this game.” (Eleven Warriors)
His ball placement stood out plenty of times Friday night. He fit the ball in tight windows with precision. His placement can be attributed to his superb footwork when dropping back. Fields seemed extremely comfortable even when the blitz was on and went through his progression while keeping his feet and hips set. We saw him struggle to do that against Northwestern and Indiana, which seem like years ago considering his vast improvement since then.
Another part of Fields’ game that was impressive against Clemson was his ability to put touch on the ball. It seemed that every deep pass he threw was falling gracefully into the hands of the receiver. You can’t teach touch like that and Fields was putting his natural abilities on display against the Tigers. Many will marvel at his arm strength on Friday night but if you’ve been watching him play for any stretch of his career, it’s been there since his first snap at Ohio State. Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has done tremendous work with Fields in developing his vision on the field, which has turned into fascinatingly improved progressions and reads, both before the snap and post-snap.
The next matchup for Fields and the Buckeyes will be the Alabama Crimson Tide in the National Championship. It’s no secret that it will be a shootout with these prolific offenses going head-to-head. Fields will have to find a way to get the ball past star Tide cornerback Patrick Surtain II, a phenomenal cover corner. Nonetheless, naysayers will have to take a long look in the mirror if you had any doubt in Justin Fields’ ability on the football field. He has guts, talent and the ability to silence the noise, which was undoubtedly loud all week after a brutal Big Ten Championship performance. There’s a lesson to be learned here stop doubting talented players who are going through rough patches. See you all in Miami.