Ohio State was going to land a very talented quarterback in the 2018 recruiting cycle, it’s just that most people thought it would be Emory Jones.
Instead, the OSU coaches could never get Jones to fully commit to Ohio State, so they had to set out to find a fall-back plan.
That plan took them through tapes of quarterbacks from all over the place.
Then they landed on Matthew Baldwin out of Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas and suddenly things didn’t seem so dire.
“Ryan Day did a heck of a job,” Urban Meyer said this week. “We’re sitting there getting ready to play Penn State, and he’s coming up to me saying, ‘Hey, let’s watch this kid from Lake Travis,’ and I’m ready to pass out, saying it’s 10:30 at night, I’ve got third down and 6 in my mind and we’re trying to watch another quarterback.”
How is it that the head coach at a school like Ohio State wouldn’t be aware of the quarterback situation at a place like Lake Travis, which has produced many FBS starting quarterbacks and now a Heisman Trophy winner in Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield?
Simple — this was Baldwin’s first season as a starter.
And what did Meyer see when he watched Baldwin’s tape?
“Oh, I saw a dominant performance by a senior,” he said. “I saw a kid that had a chance to leave Lake Travis, and nowadays every kid, I’d say 90 percent of those players leave because they have to go get theirs, and here’s a guy who was loyal to his school.
“It was a great high school, one of my first experiences down there. That’s as good a football as there is in the United States of America. Here he comes in and the kid completes over 70 percent of his passes, takes them to a state championship, and is a monster competitor.”
That tape obviously piqued Meyer’s interest, and probably woke him up a bit as well. That was where things began for Ohio State and Baldwin, who was currently committed to Colorado State. Meyer still wanted to see more, however.
“Well, I went and watched him practice, too,” he said. “I trust Ryan Day. Ryan Day did a phenomenal job.”
Meyer and Day watched Baldwin up close and personal. Evaluating a quarterback is perhaps the most important task a football coach can have, and Meyer always takes it very seriously.
“The one thing about Matthew Baldwin is that — I learned this years ago and I’ve said this before here, that what we do when we evaluate really any position, however, the most important position is the quarterback, is the competitive spirit is number one, toughness is number two, leadership is number three, number four is intelligence, number five is can you get out of a bad play, and then by the way, how does he throw, how does he run,” Meyer said. “We’ll work on all that other stuff.”
What they saw from Baldwin was everything they look for in a quarterback. Suddenly, their “fall-back plan” had done enough to step forward and become a priority.
They had seen enough to know that they wanted him as a Buckeye.
“I think you see so many mistakes made at that position because people don’t categorize like that, and he checks the box off perfectly going right down the list,” Meyer said. “And when you see NFL make mistakes in drafting guys, it’s because they didn’t fit those top four categories, top five categories. You have a non-competitor at quarterback, it’s a bad day. You have a guy that is not very intelligent, not very tough and can’t lead, really, really bad day, and we’ve been lucky around here for years because we’ve had one.”
And now it looks like they have another.
You can get a look at Ohio State’s newest quarterback on Saturday as Matthew Baldwin’s Lake Travis team plays for the Texas 6A Division I state title against Allen at 3:00 pm central on Fox Sports Southwest or the FoxSportsGo app.
[Matthew Baldwin photo courtesy of The Statesman.]