Ohio State freshman quarterback Matthew Baldwin only started for one season at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas. Lake Travis is a football powerhouse that has put numerous quarterbacks into college football, including 2017 Heisman winner Baker Mayfield. There is a standard to be upheld there, and even though Baldwin could have left and started elsewhere, he wanted to start for a program like Lake Travis.
Baldwin finally got that chance and lit the state up as a senior, leading his team to the state title game. An ACL tear in the playoffs ended his hopes of winning it all, but the season was more than a success.
Enrolled now and participating as much as he can in spring ball, Baldwin isn’t concerned about the talent around him and the competition that he will be a part of once healthy. That’s actually why he came to Ohio State.
“There are high expectations because it’s a really good room,” he said. “It’s a loaded-with-talent room. Arguably everyone in the room could be playing college Division I, starting somewhere. Choosing to come to compete at Ohio State is a big deal. So yeah, the expectations are high. I just try to get in there, get in with that family type of thing because that’s what it is here. It’s really just one unit, one family, which is Ohio State. It’s nice to be able to have guys like that that you can come in to.”
While Matthew Baldwin may have chosen to come to Ohio State to be part of something close-knit, several Buckeye receivers chose to stay at Ohio State for the very same reason.
Four of the top six receivers were draft eligible last season, and each of them returned for one more go-round. Considering the way they handle their media availabilities with reporters, perhaps that shouldn’t have been such a surprise. When players speak with reporters, they tend to do it one player at a time. J.T. Barrett goes over there, Mike Weber is 20 yards away from him, somebody else is 20 yards away from Weber, and that’s how things are supposed to work.
When the receivers meet with reporters, however, they often do it as a group. Even if only two of them are scheduled to speak, two others may show up as well and sit in on things.
Overall, it’s just a very close group, and receivers coach Zach Smith believes he knows why.
“I think it starts with leadership,” he said. “The older guys, Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin have really created a culture in the room. They’re really close. Obviously the whole group was here last year, nobody left. It was a tight-knit group last year so they’re just carrying on.
“They really enjoy being around each other. You can see at any practice you’re at, after practice you can find all of the receivers sitting on the benches before they go do cold tank and shower, they just sit there for like 45 minutes and hang out and talk. You can just tell they’re just genuinely best friends.”
At this point, even the brain trust at NASA just throws their hands up in the air when somebody asks them what happened to the Ohio State football team last season in Iowa.
The Buckeyes went in as heavy favorites and left as loaded punchline. The season was derailed in terms of the playoffs, but the coaches and players still had a job to do. They regrouped and went on to beat three ranked teams after that game. They also secured a double-digit win over noted rival Illinois, and also won at Michigan.
While the Iowa loss will never be forgotten, the Buckeyes didn’t fold.
“You hate to say it, because at that time I’d done it for 30 years, but you learn lessons no matter how long you do it,” said defensive coordinator Greg Schiano. “Unfortunately sometimes you learn the same lessons. That was a collective process of being inept and no one is absolved from that. So I think everybody learned, but it’s our job to learn the most because we have to then teach.
“And like Coach said, you better look in the mirror first thing after that game and start with yourself and then see what you can fix. And that’s what everybody did obviously by the results after that game. But it’s a shame because it cost us a lot at the end of the day. Just need to make sure that that never happens again.”