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Football: Baldwin transfer leads to lack of safety net for Ohio State quarterbacks

Sophomore quarterback Justin Fields (1) looks to pass the ball in the second half of the 2019 Spring Game on April 13. Gray beat Scarlet 35-17. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Matthew Baldwin viewed himself as Mitchell Trubisky.

Trubisky only started his redshirt junior season at the University at North Carolina, but put up the numbers — throwing 3,748 yards passing and 30 touchdowns with a 68 percent completion rate — to become the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

To Baldwin, that was the goal. That was who the redshirt freshman quarterback strived to be. And that’s the mentality he had throughout spring practice, even with the arrival of sophomore quarterback and Georgia transfer Justin Fields.

“I think patience is a very valuable thing, and if you are in the right place,” Baldwin said. “I think you can get to where you want to be.”  

But like Tate Martell before him, who transferred to the University of Miami in January, Baldwin plans to leave the Ohio State football program, entering himself into the transfer portal Thursday, which was confirmed by Ohio State.

According to the report by Lettermen Row, Baldwin’s decision to transfer is not about playing time, but one of desire to be closer to home. Baldwin is originally from Austin, Texas and played for Lake Travis High School.

Between Fields and Baldwin, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day said after the Spring Game he did not know who the leader was for the starting job.

“I don’t really know right now [who the leader is],” Day said. “I don’t think, right now, that we’re gonna make a decision on that. I think it’ll continue through the preseason.”

The potential for Baldwin was there. And despite the expectation Fields had, Baldwin had people saying that he could give the Georgia transfer a run for playing time, especially with his arm.

“Matthew can make every throw,” Lake Travis head coach Hank Carter said. “Matthew Baldwin has an NFL arm right now. There are guys in the NFL that don’t throw it any better than Matthew.”

Now, by default, Ohio State has its quarterback conundrum solved: Fields will be the starting quarterback on Aug. 31 against Florida Atlantic.

However, Baldwin’s decision does affect Ohio State. Heading into the summer, the Buckeyes have Fields and redshirt senior Chris Chugunov as the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Sophomore Danny Vanatsky is also on the roster, but is a walk-on.

In the 2019 recruiting class, Day failed to secure a quarterback.

Heading into the 2019 season, Chugunov is the only quarterback with starting experience at the college level. A graduate transfer from West Virginia, Chugunov completed 45-of-95 pass attempts for 551 yards in parts of two seasons, throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions.

Without knowing Baldwin’s intention to transfer after the Spring Game, Day said both quarterbacks are “still a work in progress.”

But, with the transfer, Fields has been catapulted into the starting role, something he said he will be ready for when fall camp begins.

“I definitely just see us scratching the surface,” Fields said. “I definitely can see us having a bright future.”

Without the depth at quarterback, Day may not have a safety net at its most important offensive position. But, with Fields and the expectations he has for himself, Ohio State may not have to have one.

“I think we will be explosive this year,” Fields said.

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