What If?

Written by Ben van Ooyen

Life is full of what ifs. 

Your personal life is full of them, the sports world is full of them, they are all around you.  

Sometimes the what ifs in your life consume you, or you let them consume you. Other times they fall beyond the wayside.  

This is my first column in over a year. 

The reason behind that is one of my biggest what ifs in my life. Let me explain.

Over a year ago I was writing as a hobby for an Ohio State fan website about recruiting. It was simply something that I had started following closely while I was in high school and then while I was in college at Ohio State. It became a passion of mine to follow closely what the Buckeyes were doing on the recruiting front (signing day was a day off work for me).

I was provided the chance a few years ago to start writing about recruiting for this very website.  I then moved on to another site, and then finally to my final stop in 2017. I was enjoying myself, not earning a penny for writing about a passion of mine. 

A website which is one of the larger sites in the Ohio State network of websites wrote one of their daily pieces that focused on my actions as a member of the 247 Sports Crystal Ball projectors. 

They used all sorts of graphics and timelines showing how I copied other people’s picks and had no insight of my own to make these picks—basically saying that their two writers were making the picks and I was following suit. 

While that allegation is the opposite of truth, their misguided actions aren’t the biggest concern I’d like to address. 

I let the words of another website stop me from doing what I love.

I took what they said about me to heart and told the owner of the website I was writing for that I was going to hang it up.  

I agonized over the decision and convinced myself it wasn’t worth doing if I was going to be called out. 

That leads to my first what if. 

What if I didn’t care what anyone said about me back then?

I believe I would still be writing about Ohio State football for a great website about something I enjoy chronicling and following. 

I basically went from an avid Ohio State recruiting fan to one who stopped paying attention at all. I had been basically bullied into a corner by people I had never met — spreading lies about me that were nowhere near accurate.

When the 2018 season started, I did not have the same interest in paying attention to games, the team, the recruiting or anything to do with the alma mater I cherish. 

The 2019 season brought back some of my interest, but I still do not follow recruiting nearly as closely as I did before. I am not sure how often I will write going forward, but I know that I have gotten some renewed energy back cause of some friends and family who knew how much I enjoyed what I was doing. 

I wish that my what if moment didn’t happen, and if you are reading this, do not let people say or do things to make you give up on your passions. 

It isn’t worth it.

Buckeye What Ifs 

So now that we have gotten that part out of the way – a follower on Twitter asked me the other day, 

“What if Justin Fields wasn’t granted immediate eligibility to play for Ohio State for the 2019 season?”

I figured that would be a good place to start this series of “What Ifs”. 

We knew that before Justin Fields was coming here that we had a quarterback room of Tate Martell and Chris Chugunov after the departure of Dwayne Haskins to the NFL.  Not the ideal quarterbacking situation having an unproven redshirt sophomore along with a graduate transfer from West Virginia with limited playing time being your options going into the season. 

The Buckeyes knew that this was not an ideal situation and when Fields made it known that he was leaving the Georgia program they reached out and eventually landed the former 5-star quarterback recruit.  Once Fields was in the fold, Tate Martell decided that he was not going to see the field and transferred to Miami (where he subsequently did not see the field). 

Where are the 2019 Ohio State Buckeyes today on the eve of the Big Ten Championship game against Wisconsin if the series of events that happened last year didn’t happen?

First off, if Fields does not come to Ohio State, then it would appear that Tate Martell would have been the odds-on favorite to start the season at quarterback for the Buckeyes.

He had a relatively small sample size as a backup to Haskins in 2018 completing 82% of his passes with one touchdown and running for two others.  Fields also had a small sample size playing for Georgia his freshman year, completing 69% of his passes with four touchdowns, and another four on the ground as the backup to Jake Fromm. 

How would the offense have been different under a Martell led team vs what we saw this year with what Fields put up? 

Thankfully, we will never have to know the answer to that question.

The safe answer is to say that things would not have ended up where they are today. While Martell was a gifted quarterback/athlete in high school, leading his Bishop-Gorman team to multiple state championships, his arm was never seen as a game changing. 

Sure, he could make plays with his legs, and make the occasional throw, but would he have been able to take advantage of a Chris Olave or a Binjimen Victor running deep routes down the field?

 I think you would have seen more KJ Hill-type short interior catches.

Now I am not saying that the offense would not have still scored points and moved the ball, because the Ohio State offense of 2019 was a juggernaut that I don’t think any of us reading this have ever seen.

Do we go into Michigan State and win an early-season test against a ranked Mark Dantonio team? 

Do we put Wisconsin into the ground as easily as we did in the eighth game of the season? Do we get by the last two games of the season at home against Penn State and on the road against Michigan with Martell leading the way?

We will never find out the answers to these questions, but if I was a betting man I would say that the Buckeyes would not be sitting on the verge of yet another Big Ten Championship if the quarterback room stayed the same as it did before Justin Fields came aboard. 

The Buckeyes still had a loaded team outside of the quarterback position, but we all know that without a great leader on the field your team will likely struggle.

So no matter if you have J.K. Dobbins running the ball or Chase Young manhandling the opposing offensive line, you still need a solid signal caller who can lead your team. 

Thankfully as Buckeye Nation we didn’t have to see that what if play out. 

We could be sitting in the same spot today, but you and I both know that probably isn’t the case. 

We got a magical year with Justin Fields leading the way for the Buckeyes and there is still much more to come. 


  1. Always did enjoy your comments in the past. Bright,articulate, and always wrote from your heart. Get your heart back in the game! Welcome back! I will be looking forward to your insights.

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