Here’s How Ohio State’s Offense Under Justin Fields Compares to Dwayne Haskins & J.T. Barrett

Ohio State was one of the high-profile college football programs that was involved in transfer quarterback musical chairs the last two offseasons. Dwayne Haskins Jr. beat out Joe Burrow for the Buckeyes’ starting job prior to the 2018 season, prompting Burrow to transfer to LSU, where he’s now a Heisman Trophy frontrunner, and his move paved the way for Georgia transfer Justin Fields to land in Columbus, which also resulted in Tate Martell transferring to Miami (FL).

The dust has settled, and we now have a four-game sample size by which to judge the Justin Fields-Ryan Day pairing at Ohio State.

It remains to be seen how the Buckeyes will stack up against elite competition — that will come when they host No. 25 Michigan State who boasts the country’s No. 1 defense on Oct. 5, then No. 8 Wisconsin on Oct. 26 — but blowout wins against Cincinnati (No. 59 SP+) and at Indiana (No. 32 SP+) can’t be ignored.

We embarked on a statistical deep dive into Ohio State’s offense in an effort to compare it to the Buckeyes’ ‘O’ from last season (when OSU had a Heisman Trophy finalist in Dwayne Haskins Jr. at quarterback), 2016 (the last time Ohio State made the College Football Playoff) and 2014 (when they won the national championship).

Through four games, Ohio State is averaging more than half a yard more per play than the Buckeyes averaged through their first four games of the 2014 season, when they won the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Running back J.K. Dobbins has more rushing yards than any other player through the first four games of any of the seasons examined, while Fields has arguably been a better version of J.T. Barrett.

Here’s how Ohio State’s yards per play, per carry and per completion through the first four games this season compare to the school’s averages through four games in 2014 and 2018*.

*Kneel downs at the end of games weren’t included in the stats. Sacks were counted against passing yards, not rushing yards like they typically are in standard college football statistics.

Season Yards Per Play Yards Per Carry Yards Per Drop-back Yards Per Completion Run/Pass Ratio
2018 7.67 5.84 9.68 13.23 52.2%/47.8%
2019 7.31 6.37 8.72 12.86 58.7%/41.3%
2016 7.30 6.76 8.21 12.31 62.9%/37.1%
2014 6.73 5.61 8.48 14.58 60.3%/39.7%

 

The following table shows what percentage of Ohio State’s offensive snaps in its first four games resulted in a touchdown, as well as its first down plus touchdown percentage.

This year’s Buckeyes have scored a touchdown on almost 1.5 percent more of its plays compared to last season and more than three percent more often that their national championship team from 2014.

Season Number of Plays First Downs Touchdowns TD% 1D+TD%
2019 288 89 29 10.1% 41.0%
2018 312 103 27 8.7% 41.7%
2016 316 92 27 8.5% 37.7%
2014 310 100 21 6.8% 39.0%

 

The following table shows what percent of Ohio State’s offensive snaps in its first four games resulted in a gain of at least 10 yards and what percent of plays resulted in no gain or a loss of yards.

Through four games, Ohio State is slightly less explosive and slightly more likely to have plays that result in no gain or a loss of yards than recent, successful Buckeye teams.

Season Number of Plays Plays of 10+ Yards % Plays of 0/- Yards %
2018 312 87 27.9% 59 18.9%
2014 310 79 25.5% 77 24.8%
2016 316 75 23.7% 54 17.1%
2019 288 68 23.6% 63 21.9%

 

The following table shows the third down success rate of Ohio State in its first four games. Success rate includes first downs and touchdowns. A 48 percent success rate is productive, but Ohio State converted at roughly a 10-percent better clip in 2016 and 2018.

Season Third Down Snaps First Downs + Touchdowns Success Rate
2018 51 30 58.8%
2016 56 32 57.1%
2019 39 19 48.7%
2014 50 23 46.0%

 

Quarterbacks

The following table shows Ohio State quarterbacks who attempted at least 10 passes in the first four games of the seasons examined, listed in descending order of their first down plus touchdown percentage.

This stat tells us what percentage of their throws result in Ohio State moving the chains or scoring.

Player Attempts Completions Comp. % Y/A Y/C 1D+TD % Sack %
Dwayne Haskins (2018) 113 85 75.2% 10.46 13.91 53.1% 3.4%
Justin Fields (2019) 95 66 69.5% 9.08 13.08 48.4% 4.0%
J.T. Barrett (2014) 106 69 65.1% 9.46 14.54 46.2% 9.4%
Tate Martell (2018) 28 23 82.1% 9.21 11.22 39.3% 9.6%
J.T. Barrett (2016) 98 68 69.4% 8.89 12.81 37.8% 3.0%
Chris Chugunov (2019) 14 11 78.6% 7.43 9.45 35.7% 0.0%
Joe Burrow (2016) 13 10 76.9% 6.85 8.90 15.4% 0.0%

 

For perspective, Cardale Jones, who backed up J.T. Barrett for most of the 2014 season before leading the Buckeyes to the national championship, attempted just four passes in Ohio State’s first four games that season — just one more attempt than current reserve Gunnar Hoak has through Week 4.

Fellow backup Chris Chugunov has thrown 14 passes for Ohio State this season — one more than Burrow did in his first four games when he backed up Barrett in 2016.

[MORE: Here’s How OU’s Offense With Jalen Hurts Compares to Baker and Kyler]

Rushing

The following table shows Ohio State players who have carried the ball at least 10 times in the Buckeyes’ first four games in the 2019, 2018, 2016 and 2014 seasons, listed in descending order of rushing attempts.

Player Attempts Yards YPC First Downs TD 1D+TD %
J.K. Dobbins (2019) 68 477 7.01 18 5 33.8%
Mike Weber (2016) 67 446 6.66 24 2 38.8%
Ezekiel Elliott (2014) 56 329 5.88 24 3 48.2%
J.K. Dobbins (2018) 55 316 5.75 20 2 40.0%
Mike Weber (2018) 51 296 5.80 14 3 33.3%
J.T. Barrett (2014) 44 278 6.32 12 1 29.5%
J.T. Barrett (2016) 42 217 5.17 11 3 33.3%
Curtis Samuel (2016) 41 328 8.00 16 2 43.9%
Master Teague III (2019) 40 252 6.30 16 1 42.5%
Curtis Samuel (2014) 32 196 6.13 10 2 37.5%
Justin Fields (2019) 28 173 6.18 7 6 46.4%
Demario McCall (2016) 19 140 7.37 5 2 36.8%
Master Teague III (2018) 17 106 6.24 4 1 29.4%
Tate Martell (2018) 15 132 8.80 4 2 40.0%
Rod Smith (2014) 15 71 4.73 5 2 46.7%
Dontre Wilson (2016) 11 74 6.73 4 1 45.5%
Marcus Crowley (2019) 11 57 5.18 3 0 27.3%
Warren Ball (2014) 10 41 4.10 3 0 30.0%
Demario McCall (2019) 10 37 3.70 2 0 20.0%

 

While Fields has fewer carries than Barrett did through Ohio State’s first four games of the 2014 season, he’s averaging almost as many yards per carry (6.32 compared to 6.18, when not counting sack yards) and Fields’ carries have resulted in a first down or touchdown roughly 17 percent more often than Barrett.

The following table shows the explosive run rate (runs of at least 10 yards) and stuff rate (runs for no gain or negative yards) for the same players listed above, listed in descending order of explosive run rate.

Player Att. 10+ Yard Runs Exp. Run Rate 0/- Yard Runs Stuff Rate
Dontre Wilson (2016) 11 3 27.3% 1 9.1%
J.T. Barrett (2014) 44 11 25.0% 8 18.2%
Curtis Samuel (2014) 32 8 25.0% 5 15.6%
Curtis Samuel (2016) 41 10 24.4% 2 4.9%
Ezekiel Elliott (2014) 56 13 23.2% 5 8.9%
Demario McCall (2016) 19 4 21.1% 1 5.3%
Mike Weber (2016) 67 14 20.9% 5 7.5%
J.K. Dobbins (2018) 55 11 20.0% 3 5.5%
Master Teague III (2019) 40 8 20.0% 5 12.5%
Tate Martell (2018) 15 3 20.0% 2 13.3%
Mike Weber (2018) 51 10 19.6% 8 15.7%
J.K. Dobbins (2019) 68 10 14.7% 8 11.8%
Justin Fields (2019) 28 4 14.3% 3 10.7%
Rod Smith (2014) 15 2 13.3% 1 6.7%
J.T. Barrett (2016) 42 5 11.9% 3 7.1%
Master Teague III (2018) 17 2 11.8% 1 5.9%
Demario McCall (2019) 10 1 10.0% 2 20.0%
Warren Ball (2014) 10 1 10.0% 1 10.0%
Marcus Crowley (2019) 11 0 0.0% 0 0.0%

 

The stats above indicate that Ohio State might be lacking the explosive running threat that Curtis Samuel, Ezekiel Elliott and 2014 J.T. Barrett possessed.

Receiving

The follow table shows Ohio State players from the seasons examined who have received more than five targets through four games, listed in descending order of targets.

Sophomore Chris Olave is likely in the midst of a breakout season for Ohio State with a ridiculous 17.5 yards per catch average that’s only topped by current NFL receivers Michael Thomas, Devin Smith and Terry McLaurin, although Olave has been targeted more than any of those players were in the first four games of their respective seasons.

Player Targets Receptions Catch Rate Yards Yards/Catch Yards/Target
Parris Campbell (2018) 24 19 79.2% 299 15.74 12.46
Curtis Samuel (2016) 23 22 95.7% 324 14.73 14.09
K.J. Hill (2018) 21 21 100% 259 12.33 12.33
Austin Mack (2018) 21 15 71.4% 205 13.67 9.76
Chris Olave (2019) 18 13 72.2% 228 17.54 12.67
K.J. Hill (2019) 18 15 83.3% 179 11.93 9.94
Binjimen Victor (2019) 16 14 87.5% 242 17.29 15.13
Dontre Wilson (2014) 16 11 68.8% 179 16.27 11.19
Dontre Wilson (2016) 15 12 80.0% 147 12.25 9.80
Michael Thomas (2014) 14 13 92.9% 247 19.00 17.64
Noah Brown (2016) 14 10 71.4% 149 14.90 10.64
Johnnie Dixon (2018) 12 10 83.3% 145 14.50 12.08
Marcus Baugh (2016) 12 5 41.7% 46 9.20 9.20
Devin Smith (2014) 11 9 81.8% 278 30.89 25.27
Terry McLaurin (2018) 11 9 81.8% 218 24.22 19.82
Austin Mack (2019) 11 7 63.6% 72 10.29 6.55
Corey Smith (2014) 11 4 36.4% 62 15.50 5.64
Ezekiel Elliott (2014) 9 8 88.9% 97 12.13 10.78
Garrett Wilson (2019) 9 7 77.8% 71 10.14 7.89
Evan Spencer (2014) 9 4 44.4% 55 13.75 6.11
Parris Campbell (2016) 8 6 75.0% 57 9.50 7.13
Jalin Marshall (2014) 8 5 62.5% 30 6.00 3.75
Curtis Samuel (2014) 7 6 85.7% 52 8.67 7.43
J.K. Dobbins (2019) 7 5 71.4% 42 8.40 6.00
Mike Weber (2018) 7 6 85.7% 41 6.83 5.86
J.K. Dobbins (2018) 7 5 71.4% 39 7.80 5.57
Nick Vannett (2014) 6 6 100% 65 10.83 10.83
Jeremy Ruckert (2019) 6 5 83.3% 62 12.40 10.33
Terry McLaurin (2016) 6 5 83.3% 59 11.80 9.83
C.J. Saunders (2018) 6 5 83.3% 37 7.40 6.17

Target data came from ESPN’s play-by-play data.

 

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