Ohio State head coach Ryan Day is once again a victim of his own success, and while it may make things a little uncomfortable for a while, it’s better than having a head coach who is constantly a victim of his own failures.
With redshirt freshman quarterback Matthew Baldwin announcing his intention to transfer from Ohio State, the OSU quarterback room has now been upended for the fourth time in the span of four months, and the fifth time in the last year.
The most disruptive of these instances was Dwayne Haskins leaving for the NFL with two years of eligibility remaining.
After throwing for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns last season under Day’s tutelage, Haskins showed that he was ready for the next step. Nobody could have legitimately blamed him, as he was the top quarterback in the draft when he announced his intentions to leave.
Day has lamented the move. Not in any menacing way towards Haskins, just in a “nobody is prepared to lose a sophomore starting quarterback” kind of way.
Haskins’ departure came about eight months after Joe Burrow transferred to LSU. Following a spring camp where Haskins and Burrow went head-to-head for the starting job, Burrow decided that he needed to explore new starting opportunities.
This left OSU with just three scholarship quarterbacks who they had actually recruited. As Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin watched Haskins set records in 2018, they both saw themselves leading the charge in 2019.
And then because of Haskins’ success in Ryan Day’s offense, Justin Fields transferred in from Georgia.
Fields is the highest-rated quarterback recruit the Buckeyes have landed since Terrelle Pryor in 2008. Both were the No. 2 players in their respective classes.
Day’s ability to draw in a player like Fields convinced Martell — himself a former 5-star quarterback — that it was time to look for other options. He ended up transferring to Miami, where he will be eligible right away.
Following a position battle this spring with Fields, Baldwin — who was hand-picked for a spot in the 2018 recruiting class over then-OSU-commit Emory Jones — also decided to move on.
And the mere rumor of Fields’ arrival at Ohio State was enough to convince 2019 OSU quarterback commit Dwan Mathis to sign with Georgia.
That’s one quarterback for the price of three, but being penalized for bringing in the best possible talent is better than most penalties. At the end of the day, Justin Fields is still in Columbus, after all.
This still puts Ohio State in an itchy situation, of course. Fields’ health is now the biggest concern in Columbus, but he’s not the kind of quarterback you drape in bubble wrap. That’s not when he is at his best.
And the alternative doesn’t look like a better option anyway.
Say Fields doesn’t come to Ohio State, the Buckeyes would have gone through the spring with Matthew Baldwin, Tate Martell, and Dwan Mathis. One of Baldwin and Martell are still likely to transfer when they don’t win the job, leaving the Buckeyes with a starter who wasn’t able to beat out Fields and a true freshman who is at least two years away from being a viable alternative.
Say what you want about graduate transfer Chris Chugunov, but he’s likely a better option this season than Dwan Mathis if something terrible happens to Fields. Chugunov knows Ryan Day’s offense and can operate it at least well enough to get the ball to the guys who can do something with it.
While the transfer portal has certainly changed the game, I see this as more of just the way the quarterback position has been for years. It’s hard to keep backups for more than three years. Had Tate Martell or Matthew Baldwin or Joe Burrow won their respective battles in the spring, they wouldn’t have transferred.
The unfortunate part for them is that they just happened to ride right into the perfect storm of what looks like the two most talented quarterbacks in Ohio State history.
There are some who blame Ryan Day for the quarterback situation right now.
Well, it is his fault that Dwayne Haskins threw 50 touchdowns last year and showed that he is ready to be an NFL Draft pick. It is also his fault for bringing in the best quarterback recruit Ohio State has had in over a decade.
If he keeps screwing up like this, the Buckeyes might just have something here.