From his time watching Urban Meyer make depth chart decisions as the head coach, Ryan Day has an idea of how it all works. He talks to the position coaches, makes sure they are all on the same page and watches film, among other things.
But most of the time, the answer to the question of who will start is somewhat obvious.
“Most of the time, it’s already going to be decided. You know who the starter is,” Day said. “You know guys over a period of time and have a body of work. You kind of know who the starter is.”
Since the start of his first spring as head coach, Day has pointed to the quarterback position as a battle between redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin and sophomore Justin Fields.
Over the course of the past 15 practices, Day has watched as both quarterbacks have built up their own personal body of work, watching how they react to certain on-field situations, the way they manage the playbook, their ability to work a team downfield and their leadership on and off the football field.
And the Spring Game is just another aspect of that process. Day views it as another practice, except this time, both quarterbacks will play before a near-capacity crowd at Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
But to most people, the quarterback position has already been decided.
Coming in as a former five-star recruit, Fields, a transfer from Georgia, came with the Ohio State starting quarterback job in his sights. Just his presence on the depth chart, being one of the top quarterback recruits in recent memory, forced a quarterback out in Tate Martell, and makes it difficult for any other quarterback to be in the picture.
Day saw what every other person saw when recruiting Fields: a talented quarterback with sky-high potential. Ohio State’s head coach called Fields’ physical traits “tremendous,” highlighting his size and ability to move along with his strong arm.
When he arrived at Ohio State, Day noticed the intangibles when the head coach worked with Fields one-on-one: his ability to read defenses at the line of scrimmage, his level of knowledge from the huddle.
“Very impressed with his ability to retain information, his football IQ,” Day said. “You forget for such a mature kid, he hasn’t played much football at all.”
In that way, Fields and Baldwin are similar, but in different circumstances. While Baldwin was sidelined with an injury, Fields sat behind Jake Fromm at Georgia, waiting for an opportunity that never truly came.
Playing in parts of 12 games with the Bulldogs, Fields showed flashes of his five-star potential, completing 27-of-39 attempts, averaging 12.14 yards per completion with four passing touchdowns. On the ground, he was just as electric, averaging 6.3 yards per carry with four rushing touchdowns.
Coming to Ohio State, Fields did not have anything to prove. He said he didn’t know what to expect either. He said his only goal, even without a definite grasp on the starting job, was to continue to grow.
“Coach Day wasn’t giving me handouts,” Fields said. “I knew coming here I would have to work for it.”
To Day, both quarterbacks are still freshmen and both have something to prove. But in practice, Fields has seen a bulk of opportunities with the first-team offense.
Whether it’s running the offense under center, which primarily has led to a play-action pass, or the return of the option J.T. Barrett ran in his career, the Ohio State offense seems to be leaning toward the abilities of Fields more than Baldwin.
But there has not been an official decision, and there likely will not be one until the fall.
The Spring Game might not be as critical to Day’s decision as the outside world may perceive. But there is one thing Day wants to see from Fields and Baldwin.
“The coaches are off the field, so now it’s their team,” Day said.
By the time Aug. 31 comes around and the coaches are off the field for good, it will likely be Fields’ team.