Justin Fields, Hunter Johnson Prove All 5-Stars Not the Same

Ohio State transfer QB has been as great as Northwestern transfer has struggled
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It's not unusual for Ohio State coach Ryan Day or Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald to field questions about their quarterback.

But while the subject for the two coaches is the same, the tenor of the questions are very different in advance of Friday night's 8:30 kickoff between No. 3 OSU (6-0) and the struggling Wildcats (1-4).

Day fields inquiries about whether Fields, who's accounted for 26 touchdowns rushing (8) and passing (18) has exceeded his expectations and how high the sophomore transfer's ceiling may be.

The questions to Fitzgerald aren't as lengthy, typically boiling down to the same two-word theme about Johnson, a redshirt sophomore transfer from Clemson.

"What's wrong?"

PlayerCompletionsAttemptsPct.YardsTD/Ints

Justin Fields

98

141

.695

1,298

18/1

Hunter Johnson

43

89

.483

367

1/4

Both were five-star recruits coming out of high school -- Fields in Georgia, Johnson in Indiana -- and both struggled in their first seasons as true freshmen backups at their respective schools.

Jammed on the depth chart -- Fields behind Jake Fromm at Georgia, Johnson behind Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence at Clemson -- they transferred and sought a brighter future in the Big Ten.

And that's where Fields' and Johnson's roads fork in opposite directions.

Johnson struggling to make impact at Northwestern

Fields has been spectacular for the Buckeyes, while Johnson came off a redshirt year in Evanston to struggle in a 17-7 season-opening loss at Stanford, getting strip-sacked for a touchdown in the final minutes to clinch the loss.

He started Northwestern's next three games, but has completed more than half his attempts only once in four starts.

Johnson did not play in a 13-10 loss to Nebraska the Wildcats last time out because of an injury he suffered the week before in a loss at Wisconsin.

Fitzgerald went with junior Aiden Smith in that defeat. He completed 19 of 32 attempts for 136 yards.

The Wildcats have Johnson and Smith bracketed on the depth chart this week.

Fitzgerald still maintains he will get the type of play from Johnson down the road that OSU is getting from Fields now.

"Every player has a different maturation throughout their career," Fitzgerald said. "...Do i expect Hunter will get his play up to where Justin is now? I believe so. We just have to give it time. For some players, it just clicks.

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