Ohio State is looking for a new quarterback to replace the recently-departed Dwayne Haskins, and it could be one of the top-ranked recruits to ever play for the Buckeyes. The NCAA approved a waiver on Friday that allows rising sophomore transfer quarterback Justin Fields to play immediately in Columbus. Fields played as a true freshman at Georgia in 2018 and transferred to the Buckeyes in January following bowl season.
"I am happy for Justin and his family," coach Ryan Day said in a statement. "I also want to express my appreciation to the NCAA for its assistance in getting this matter resolved efficiently and with such a positive outcome for Justin."
Fields, the No. 2 overall player and top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the Class of 2018, will likely be the front-runner for the top spot on the depth chart for the Buckeyes following Haskins' departure and Tate Martell's transfer to Miami. With a recruiting of 0.9998, he is the top-ranked high school player to ever play for the Buckeyes according to the 247Sports composite rankings, edging out former quarterback Terrelle Pryor (0.9997).
"I thank God for His guidance during this time of uncertainty," Fields said in a statement. "I would like to thank the NCAA for its approval of the waiver allowing me to be eligible to play football this fall. I also want to thank all those who supported and encouraged my family and me during this process. While my case was pending before the NCAA, my family and I did not feel that it was appropriate to publicly speak about the circumstances leading to my transfer. In my silence, people began to speculate, and the story took on a life of its own.
"Now that this matter is concluded, I would like to clarify some facts. I have no regrets about my time at UGA and have no hard feelings for the school or football program. My overall experience at UGA was fully consistent with UGA's commitment to diversity and inclusion. My sister is a softball player at UGA. I am still close friends with many of my UGA teammates. A part of me will always be a Georgia Bulldogs fan."
Yahoo Sports reports that the grounds for his transfer request was an incident that took place in late September 2018, when a member of the Georgia baseball team shouted a racial slur suggesting that coach Kirby Smart put Fields into the game in place of starter Jake Fromm. The baseball player was dismissed from the program the following week.
Fields did not see much playing time behind Fromm during the 2018 season, one in which Georgia won the SEC East, was five minutes away from beating Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and nearly earned a berth in the College Football Playoff for the second straight season.
He saw action in 12 games, but only threw for 328 yards and four touchdowns while adding 266 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. He was named SEC Freshman of the Week for his performance against UMass on Nov. 17. He rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown against the Minutemen and threw for 121 yards and two touchdowns. His most prominent moment as a freshman for the Bulldogs came with 3:04 to play against the Crimson Tide, when he took the snap on an ill-advised fake punt call from coach Smart on fourth-and-11 at midfield. Fields only gained two yards against a defense that was prepared for him to get the ball, and the Tide cruised down the field to score the game-winning touchdown in a 35-28 win.