Justin Fields will be the starting quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes in 2019. That wasn’t really a question. First-year head coach Ryan Day has continued to say that there was a quarterback competition throughout all of spring, but the former Georgia Bulldog didn’t transfer to Ohio State to be a backup.
With that said, the Buckeyes have very little depth behind Fields, something that they aren’t quite used to. The scarlet and gray are used to having plenty of talent and players in the quarterback room. This spring, it was Fields (a sophomore), redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin, graduate transfer Chris Chugunov, and walk-on Danny Vanatsky. Day had made it known that he wanted to add a fourth quarterback and that it would likely be another graduate transfer so that they would be immediately eligible rather than just a regular transfer that would have to sit out an entire season. That has seemingly become even more obvious now.
Thursday night, Lettermen Row’s Austin Ward reported that Baldwin has entered his name in the transfer portal, a report that Baldwin himself seemed to confirm in a statement hours later.
— Matthew Baldwin (@matthewb_12) April 19, 2019
I want to start by saying I am grateful for my time in Columbus. And the relationships formed here at Ohio State.
This spring was huge for me. To finally get back on the field after my ACL tear. It felt really great being in the mix of things and taking snaps again. Being able to play in front of 75,000 of the greatest fans in the country was beyond exciting. I loved getting to know Justin and competing with him was an incredible experience for me. I was really proud of what I did and am excited about my progress.
At the same time, spring was a tough time for me personally. My family and I have prayed and talked a lot about where I belong and what is best for me. In the end, we feel it’d be better for me to step away from Ohio State. I want everyone to know this isn’t out of anger or frustration, but I’m not just a football player. While I’m so grateful for the experiences I have had here, it’s time for me to find a place that I feel is a perfect fit. I want to find a place to call home where I can thrive as a football player and student.
I want to emphasize the love and respect I have for the entire Ohio State coaching staff and my incredible teammates. Especially, I want to Coach Day for his guidance over the past year and for the belief he had in me from the start. He is an amazing coach and an incredible person. He will do incredible things at Ohio State. I also want to thank the strength coaches, who work with us every day.
Finally, I want to thank Adam Stewart and the entire physical therapy and training staff for helping me bounce back. Stew is the best in the business and has been such an important person in my life this year. I will never forget what he did for me in what was a very difficult time.
“Thank you Buckeye Nation for all the memories and support. I appreciate what this experience has taught me and consider my time here a blessing. I’m looking forward to my next step in life and I wish the best for each of you.
As Ward alluded to earlier, Baldwin’s transfer request seems to be much different than former Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell’s earliest this year. Martell wanted to leave because Fields transferred to Ohio State, therefore making Martell the likely backup quarterback again. For Baldwin, he seems to be homesick rather than just disappointed that he likely wouldn’t have been the starting quarterback for the Buckeyes this fall. The Lake Travis standout seems to want to play at a school that’s much closer to his hometown in Texas. He even admitted that he loves the competition and has gone through plenty of it throughout his time playing football.
“In high school, I had [Baylor quarterback] Charlie Brewer one year ahead of me, so I had the option my sophomore year to transfer schools,” Baldwin said following the Rose Bowl. “That was competition, and I could have run away from it and gone to get mine, started some other place for some worse school for three years. But I stuck with it, and I think it eventually made me much better sitting behind him and getting to play my senior year.
“I’ve never been someone to shy away from competition. I’m not afraid of competition. I welcome it. The best player is going to play here. There are no politics, and I hope I can be the best player.”
After recovering from a torn ACL that he suffered during his fourth and final high school season, Baldwin made some vast improvements this spring. He proved that he could potentially be a standout quarterback at the highest level of college football, but it now seems as though that will no longer be in Columbus.
Even with Baldwin, Ohio State’s four quarterbacks had a combined two starts, with Chugunov starting two games during his time at West Virginia. But now potentially without Baldwin going forward, the Buckeyes not only don’t have any experience, but they have no depth at quarterback either, let alone only two on scholarship. A spot that they don’t want to be in. Day was worried about their depth even with Baldwin. Without him? It’s not good whatsoever.
In 2018, Joe Burrow, who was supposedly in a competition for the starting job with Dwayne Haskins during the spring, decided to graduate and transfer to LSU for his final two years of eligibility. Even with his departure, the Buckeyes still had Martell, a competent quarterback to backup Haskins. This year’s situation is completely different, one that Ohio State hopes they don’t technically have to find out about or deal with.
While the Buckeyes knew they had to add a fourth quarterback before fall practice begins, that isn’t just a desire or hope, it’s now a demand and quite a need. Not only for depth purposes but in case Fields does, in fact, goes down, a position that the Buckeyes hope they don’t have to face. Fields will be the starting quarterback, but Ohio State must now find a competent backup quarterback that can be counted on during the season. A graduate transfer that has experience and is immediately game-ready. With spring ball already over, the clock is ticking, and ticking quite fast. There are still a handful of high-caliber quarterbacks on the market that would be a solid backup quarterback for Ohio State, but it’s up to Day and company to not only figure out which one would be the best fit but to entice said quarterback to come to the Buckeyes. While many game-ready graduate transfers would like to go somewhere where they would start in the final year of eligibility, Ohio State could use the “you’re one play away from being the starting quarterback for the Ohio State Buckeyes” line to entice a player to potentially don the scarlet and gray this fall.
Since the calendar year flipped to 2019, Ohio State has now seen five (5!) quarterbacks leave the program or at least their commitment to the Buckeyes. Haskins declared for the upcoming NFL Draft, Martell transferred to Miami, Dwan Mathis flipped his commitment from the scarlet and gray to Georgia on National Signing Day,1 and walk-on Kory Curtis transferred to Bryant University. Day is known by many as an outstanding head coach for quarterbacks, but with this type of movement going on in his first year as the head coach, he has plenty still on his plate heading into the upcoming season.
If (and when) Baldwin transfers from the program, Ohio State will not have a single quarterback on their roster that was with them in 2018. Crazy, right? Times have changed and Fields should somewhat have things under control as a starter. The only problem that lies ahead is if he gets hurt, a situation that Day and the Buckeyes hope they’ll never be in but have to prepare for the worst all while hoping for the best.
It sure will be an interesting summer on the graduate transfer market for Ohio State.