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Football: Quarterback battle headlines Ohio State practice

Ohio State freshman quarterback Justin Fields speaks to the media for the first time on National Signing Day on Feb. 6. Credit: Colin Gay | Sports Editor

On Wednesday, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day called the race for the starting quarterback position a “battle.”

The battle continued in practice Friday, with sophomore Justin Fields and redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin headlining the competition.

Fields, a transfer quarterback from Georgia who was granted eligibility to play in 2019 on Feb. 8, was seen as the frontrunner as soon as his eligibility was confirmed.

But to Baldwin, this is a race he can win.

Baldwin said him and Fields have “started off equal” in a race to win the starting job, and that Day has been letting him know that the whole way.

“Coach Day, honesty is one of his most important parts, and that’s always been here, and so throughout the whole process, he was letting me know what’s happening,” Baldwin said. “I wasn’t gonna find out on Twitter about anything, he was letting me know.”

On the other end, Fields said he is not simply trying to win the job.

For the former five-star quarterback, he said his goals are past winning the position, instead shifting his focus on getting better.

“I don’t want to accomplish or prove anything,” Fields said. “For me, my goal is just to become the best quarterback I can be and just keep improving every day.”

Both quarterbacks are coming in with areas to overcome.

For Fields, it is learning a new offense in a quicker time after transferring. For Baldwin, it is continuing to recover from a knee injury from high school that he worked on consistently through this past season.

But Baldwin said the injury is mostly behind him.

“I feel pretty much 100 percent right now,” Baldwin said. “My body, I’d say, is 100 percent. The only thing now is confidence, like sometimes when I run, I might just subconsciously, when I’m trying to cut left, not plant as hard on my right leg … that’s just something that takes time.”

Quarterbacks coach Mike Yurcich is not attempting to figure out who his starter will be any time soon.

As the lone new coach on the offensive side, Yurcich said the goal is to make the strongest competition he can for the quarterbacks, but that all of that will come from developing the talent in his room.

Yurcich said there is no necessary time frame for him to figure out who the guy will be come the fall.

“I don’t think we have a definite timeline to say hey, it’s gotta be done by practice four or it’s gotta be done by practice five,” Yurcich said. “As you go through spring, you make those decisions, and whenever that time is, that’s what it’ll end up being.”

While the starting quarterback position seemed relatively set once Tate Martell transferred to the University of Miami and Fields was granted his immediate transfer, coming into practices, Ohio State is not ready to set anything in stone.

Neither is Fields. The sophomore quarterback is ready for the battle, and knows nothing will come easy for him when it comes to winning the spot.

“Coach Day wasn’t giving any handouts, so I knew coming here that I’d have to work for it,” Fields said. “Of course I want to be the starter, but at the end of the day that’s not my decision, so I’m just gonna come out here and just continue to get better.”

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