One year after Dwayne Haskins set all kinds of records for the Buckeyes, there are actually people working hard for the opportunity to follow such an act.
Justin Fields willingly transferred to Ohio State for a shot at being compared to Haskins. Matthew Baldwin was prepared to compete against Tate Martell and even Haskins himself this year, but now he finds both Martell and Haskins gone and a new competitor in their place.
When Fields transferred to Ohio State, many immediately anointed him as the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback. None of those people, however, reside inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
And that includes head coach Ryan Day.
“Nah, Coach Day wasn’t giving any handouts,” Fields said recently when asked if he was under the impression that he was going to be Ohio State’s starting quarterback when he transferred.
“I knew coming here that I have to work for it. Of course I want to be the starter, but at the end of the day that’s not my decision, so I’m just going to come out here and continue to get better.”
Heading into the Rose Bowl this past January, Fields was a frequent topic of conversation. Reporters asked both Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin their thoughts on the prospective transfer and neither spoke of backing down from a competition.
Changes have occurred since then, as Martell is now in Miami awaiting word on his immediate eligibility for 2019.
But Baldwin remains, and so does his confidence.
“I’ve never been afraid of competition,” Baldwin said this spring. “I know that [Fields] has a lot of hype around him, but he’s lived up to it from everything I’ve seen. Throwing with him before spring started and even in spring, he’s living up to it. He’s a great player, it’s awesome to be able to compete against a guy like that and measure up.”
While Martell decided to transfer, Baldwin didn’t take it personally that Day went out and grabbed a guy that many believe will win the job in the fall.
“He probably went to Georgia with that same mindset, that he was going to come in and start, and Jake Fromm held him off,” Baldwin said. “He has strengths and weaknesses, I have my strengths and weaknesses. I’m glad I get to compete against a guy like that. No one wants to be handed things. You don’t feel like you earned it. You’re not going to be handed things here, so I never expected that coming in.”
Two practices in, the quarterback competition is still in its infancy, but the quarterbacks are relying on each other in order to get through each day.
“Me and Matt are good friends,” Fields said. “He’s definitely a good quarterback and I’m just learning from him every day because you know he was here last year, so he’s just been helping me out with the playbook and stuff like that.”
Baldwin isn’t concerned that he is helping his competition because they are both still playing on the same team, after all. He also knows that he wouldn’t be at Ohio State if Ryan Day didn’t think he was capable of being the starter.”
“Coach Day is the one who came out and recruited me,” Baldwin said. “Ohio State was really my first Division One big-time offer. So Coach Day found me, and he believes in me with all of his heart and so I trust him.”
Martell famously said that it takes a year to learn Ryan Day’s offense. Justin Fields is barely three months in, while Baldwin is an entire year ahead of him.
Three months ago, Baldwin was preparing to compete with Martell for the starting job. Things changed abruptly in terms of the competition, but Baldwin’s motivation is the same as it ever was.
“Tate was also a 5-star, so no matter what, you’re going to be competing against someone good here,” he said. “I was kind of chasing Tate, that was kind of my position so I kind of had a fire under me. Now Tate leaves and Justin comes, so I guess he’s kind of chasing me or we’re kind of fighting each other. So it is different, but I think I have the same motivation.”
Baldwin no longer believes he is chasing anybody for the job, and if he wants it to stay that way, he will need to continue setting the pace every step of the way.