Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Day runs the quarterback room like the pros do, how redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins imagines he treated the quarterbacks with the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers.
Haskins said Day, who will be promoted to the head coaching position on Jan. 2 after the Rose Bowl, will not do a lot of hand holding with his players. He said the expectations remain for quarterbacks to do what they have to do, with Day holding a level of accountability over the players he is in charge of.
“Coach Day would tell me to watch an hour of film, and if I didn’t watch an hour, he would know,” Haskins said. “Whether it was with the playbook or it was with protection or anything such as that, he showed me the way to do those things to the best of my ability. And I think that’s the expectation from the NFL that he brought to our locker room.”
From the sideline, watching as Haskins led a record-breaking Ohio State offense, the expectation remained the same for freshman quarterback Matthew Baldwin.
Coming in as an early enrollee in January, Baldwin’s first task at the college-level quarterback was to get healthy. He suffered an ACL injury after dropping back on the first play of the Class 6A Division I Texas state final, attempting to lead Lake Travis High School to a state title.
Baldwin said much of the focus, when he first arrived at Ohio State, was on changing his view from high school to college football mentally, watching and learning the offense.
With Haskins running the offense, leading the No. 1 pass offense in the country, Baldwin felt he had someone he could emulate as a quarterback who prefers to sit in the pocket, throwing to playmakers in space.
“Dwyane has an elite level of confidence in himself and it’s for good reason: it’s because he is an elite player and he’ll take any shot he thinks he can make,” Baldwin said. “That’s something that I have definitely started to learn here is that you can’t be tentative, you can’t second guess yourself, you just got to go because if you do that, you will get left behind.”
Left behind: something Baldwin was when he entered Ohio State with an injury to overcome and with a role that has yet to be defined.
Day said he wants to have four quarterbacks on Ohio State’s roster at all times, noting that the team will find out after the bowl game whether Haskins will enter the NFL Draft.
However, Ohio State has been linked to former 2018 five-star quarterback Justin Fields, who informed Georgia, where he spent his freshman season, that he intended to transfer, entering the NCAA transfer portal Tuesday, allowing other schools to contact him.
Day would not comment on Ohio State’s likelihood of acquiring a transfer at quarterback for the 2019 season.
But Day did say, with the record-breaking offense Haskins ran last season, traveling to New York City as a Heisman finalist, the Ohio State quarterback room is a room that many would like to be a part of.
“I think that after the season we had with Dwayne, the interest level is at an all-time high,” Day said. “People are very excited about what we are doing on offense. The quarterbacks are very excited about getting into this offense and so that’s exciting and it’s fun to have that opportunity.”
Without knowing what Haskins’ decision will be regarding the NFL, Day said both Baldwin and redshirt freshman Tate Martell, a dual-threat quarterback who Baldwin described as “electric,” have done a good job in bowl practice, obtaining fundamental work and getting better with quality reps in the offense.
For Baldwin specifically, who, after the ACL injury, did not have as many reps as Haskins or Martell, Day said bowl practices are a good opportunity to find his place in the Ohio State offense.
“When he came in, he came off the ACL and really wasn’t ready to practice in the preseason. Then, once the season started, he didn’t really get a whole bunch of reps because Dwayne took the one’s and Tate took reps with the two’s,” Day said. “So this is a great opportunity for him to step in and start to get some work. The confidence in him is growing.”
Even without the playing time on the field during the 2018 season, Haskins — who Baldwin said was his “big brother” in the mentorship program the football team uses to integrate underclassmen into the culture of Ohio State — taught the freshman how to be a pro: how to perform and act like an NFL quarterback on and off the field.
“Something [Haskins] just does, he hasn’t spoken to me directly about it, is just you have to be around your guys off the field if you want to form a chemistry and a relationship that you need to perform well on the field,” Baldwin said.
Haskins has been in Baldwin’s shoes. He has been in the position the freshman quarterback is in, observing and learning from the players in front of him, molding him into the Heisman contender he became in 2018.
“I remember when I was a young pup and these guys were the older guys getting me ready for practice and for games,” Haskins said. “It’s been a lot of growth and experience over this season and it’s been a lot of fun being able to go out there and play every Saturday.”
Haskins played his way into becoming the heir to former Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett’s starting role. Baldwin has not had that same opportunity, the opportunity to become “the guy” in the offense.
And Haskins’ decision could prove to be a big one for the Ohio State quarterbacks room as a whole, defining playing time and career paths for each member, or a future member, of the room.
For now, Baldwin does not have a clear path to the starting job at Ohio State. With bowl practice, he has an opportunity to gain experience, experience he did not have when he arrived.
Baldwin started by falling behind. With the roster moves available for Ohio State at their most integral offensive position, it could be difficult to overcome.