Well before quarterback Dwayne Haskins bypassed his final two seasons of eligibility at Ohio State, the process of replacing him had begun.
Justin Fields transferred in, Tate Martell transferred out, and freshman Matthew Baldwin was there to watch it all happen.
Fields is arguably the most-highly-touted Buckeye quarterback ever, but that stopped meaning anything the moment he arrived on campus. What his recruiting rankings do tell us is that a lot of people have seen him perform in the past and been very, very impressed.
Baldwin didn’t quite have the same amount of hype, but he has done nothing but impress those who have come to know him.
Together, Baldwin and Fields will take part in possibly the most-anticipated quarterback battle in college football this coming season.
While spring practice has yet to begin, there are a few people out there who have seen both in action. One of them is former Buckeye receiver Terry McLaurin, who spoke to The-Ozone about what Fields and Baldwin will bring to Ohio State.
His first time seeing Fields was in the summer of 2018 during a Nike internship.
“When I took my internship out in Beaverton, Oregon during The Opening, Justin Fields was out there and he got the MVP of the camp,” McLaurin said. “He was really impressive in 7-on-7s. I don’t think he threw an interception. So the intangibles seem there.”
At 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, Fields’ frame is reminiscent of the guy he could be replacing.
“He kind of reminds you of Dwayne,” McLaurin said. “He may be a little bigger, I don’t know the measurables. I hear he’s a great quarterback. He’s a good kid. Being ingratiated into our football program and our culture, I know Coach [Ryan] Day will get him right.”
Fields played in 12 games this past season as a true freshman. He completed 27-of-39 passes for 328 yards and also rushed for 266 yards on 42 attempts.
Baldwin, meanwhile, did not see action for the Buckeyes. After tearing his ACL at the end of his senior season in high school, Baldwin spent most of the 2018 season getting back to full strength.
Around midseason, Day said that Baldwin was healthy enough to play and could see action. Those snaps never came, however, as the Ohio State defense was unable to cooperate and provide a lead comfortable enough to allow for the No. 3 quarterback to play.
Baldwin took part in practice all season long, but rarely received scrimmage reps. That changed in bowl practice when Baldwin finally got a chance to lead the Ohio State offense in live action.
His performances in practices, as well as in offseason throwing, has Terry McLaurin convinced that Baldwin shouldn’t be overlooked.
“I don’t think people should sleep on Matt Baldwin,” he said. “I remember my first impression of him was he was throwing just simple routes and I was catching the ball from him, and I was like, ‘Wow, he’s got some zip on the ball.’ You could instantly tell that. I hope he becomes more vocal because I know he has confidence. He played in the highest conference out there in Texas. The kid can ball and he showed some strides in bowl camp.”
Regardless of who ends up on top, McLaurin has high expectations for both Fields and Baldwin, and even more so in Ryan Day.
“I think for Buckeye fans it’s an embarrassment of riches,” he said. “I don’t think you can go wrong with either one. I know that Coach Day will make sure that the best guy is leading the team.”