What Separates Starting Quarterbacks From Backups?
Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin competed to be Ohio State’s starting quarterback this spring.
No winner was announced, nor was there going to be.
It was only the first leg of the competition — or at least it would have been had Baldwin not decided to transfer out.
While Baldwin’s departure may have cleared up the competition, there is still plenty that the Buckeye coaches need to see from their eventual starting quarterback as he progresses towards the starting job.
“I think the big thing that you’re looking for is leadership,” quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich said this spring. “That’s a really big focus. How the team responds to that individual. Their presence. Their leadership. Being able to be vocal at times. And then it’s really performance. It’s productivity. That’s what you’re looking at.
“You also have to secure the football and along those lines there’s a lot of things that factor into it. Things like knowing pass protections, knowing when to get in and out of plays, knowing when to throw the ball away. All of those things that encompass good, sound football and helping your team win football games. All of those things factor into it.”
Garrett Wilson the Blocker?
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day talked this winter about the first time he saw Garrett Wilson in person.
He was at Lake Travis High School to take a look at Matthew Baldwin, but happened to notice a wide receiver blocking a defender into a tree.
Day asked who the receiver was, and the rest eventually became history.
Wilson enrolled early and took part in spring ball. He lost his black stripe this spring, and fans saw his playmaking ability two weeks ago in the OSU spring game.
As everyone knows, however, if a receiver is going to play a large number of snaps, he has to be able to block. He doesn’t need to be Terry McLaurin or Evan Spencer, but he can’t be a pushover.
So where is Wilson as a blocker so far?
“He’s blocking okay,” Day said this spring. “He can do much better at that. He needs to get strong and he needs to do a better job in the preseason of blocking. So that is very, very important. When we start getting into Big Ten play and we start playing against some of those hard defenses, we’ve got to be able to block.
“So that’s a big part of it and he can improve in that area and he knows that. It’s one of those things that we’ll be talking about after the spring. But he’s willing and he’s willing to stick his face in there and that’s 80% of it.”
The Search for Bullets
One of the dangers of bringing in a new defense with certain unique distinctions is that the team making the change may not actually have the proper pieces for those distinctions.
With Ohio State moving forward with the hybrid linebacker/safety “Bullet” position, they needed to have somebody on the roster who could fill the bill.
Being Ohio State, the Buckeyes aren’t exactly short on athletes, but the Bullet is a niche position that isn’t easy to find. To generalize it, he has to be able to defend the run like a linebacker and defend the pass like a safety.
Brendon White was always the most logical choice, which is why linebackers coach Al Washington and defensive coordinators Jeff Hafley and Greg Mattison chose him. Behind White is Jahsen Wint, who shined during the spring game.
Other than those two, however, there may not be anybody else. With both players being juniors, some recruiting will need to take place to fill that role down the road.
But there also may be current Buckeyes who don’t quite fit one spot or the other and emerge to become the perfect fit like Brendon White.
“It’s a combination of both,” White said of recruiting vs. finding somebody already on the team.
“Hell, there may be a great Bullet on the team right now, we just don’t know yet. I think there is. We know him, but you never know as time goes. A year from now… I’ve just seen it happen so many different ways. In recruiting, I think you can identify that nichey guy.
“You know what it is a lot like, offensively you hear people talk about [Purdue receiver] Rondale Moore. That’s a great example. That guy is shorter. He can catch, he can run. Those dynamic guys. It’s the same thing on defense. You’re trying to find those nichey guys.”