Here we are, a couple of days out from the spring game. Ohio State Football has an air of excitement around it. It’s not every year the nations former top high school recruit transfers to your program. Justin Fields transferred from Georgia to be the starting quarterback but reports from practice are he is splitting reps with Matthew Baldwin. A quarterback controversy is not what the Buckeyes need in Ryan Days first season. But do they really have one? With that, we take a look at the Ohio State football quarterback battle.
The moment Justin Fields was ruled eligible by the NCAA, redshirt freshman pro-style quarterback Matthew Baldwin was written off by nearly everyone. He spent his redshirt season rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered in the Texas high school state playoffs. He did, however, enroll early in January of 2018 meaning he has more than a year in Ohio States offense. This gives him a considerable leg up on Fields who has been in Columbus since January of this year. A four-star recruit from Texas (same high school as Baker Mayfield) that Day personally recruited. Baldwin is a guy that has a chip on his shoulder. He did not get a ton of big-time interest coming out of school even though he threw for over 4,000 yards, 44 touchdowns, and completed over 70% of his passes.
Baldwin has been putting the work in, you can tell just by the way his body has matured. He has added twenty pounds of muscle since arriving on campus. He has a big arm that the coaching staff really likes and believe he could easily fit into an offense that looks a lot like the one Dwayne Haskins ran last year. Through the first 10 spring practices, Baldwin and Fields completion percentages have been very close. Baldwin has worked very hard rehabbing and learning the offense in Columbus. Baldwin having a chance to win the job is probably only a surprise to people outside the program.
Fields was dubbed the starting quarterback by people outside of the Ohio State Football program the moment he announced his decision to transfer. After a year at Georgia where the former top recruit only managed 39 passes, Fields was unhappy with his situation and decided to leave his home state for an opportunity to start in Columbus. Fields is a dual-threat quarterback that was used mostly as a runner at Georgia but has a good arm. Fields raw talent is undeniable, even without taking a snap he has been made an early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
Odds to win the Heisman Trophy:
Trevor Lawrence +250
Tua Tagovailoa +250
Justin Fields +1000
Adrian Martinez +1200
Jalen Hurts +1300
D’Andre Swift/Jonathan Taylor +1600
Ian Book/Travis Etienne +1800
Jake Fromm +1900
Justin Herbert +2200
Sam Ehlinger +2600
Jerry Jeudy +2800
— Odds Shark (@OddsShark) April 3, 2019
While it would be a great story for Baldwin to win the starting job here after all the fanfare surrounding Fields it isn’t likely to happen. The battle is close now but that is a symptom of the amount of time both guys have in Days system. The biggest hurdle for Fields right now is mental. Splitting reps in the spring with Baldwin allow the coaching staff to talk things over. You can learn just as much by watching and talking through things.
Having a capable guy like Baldwin around is a blessing for the coaching staff. Being able to plug him into the lineup and not waste valuable practice reps for the other 10 players on the field while having a teaching moment with Fields is paramount to everyone’s development. Preparing Baldwin is just as important. Fields is a natural runner, and quarterbacks that run are injury prone. Baldwin needs to be ready to play every week.
This is a win-win for Ohio State. Every football program in America would like to have two options to start at quarterback. This battle is mostly due to spring football and the circumstances surrounding the two quarterbacks. Make no mistake the best player with start. The safe bet to start this fall is Fields.
Spring Game Predictions
- Baldwin outplays Fields
- Garrett Wilson is the star
- Two interceptions
- “Silver Bullet” is said at least 1,000 times