Ohio State: How Buckeyes managed first year of new redshirt rule

On3 imageby:Austin Ward12/26/18

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The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics on Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about Ohio State freshmen? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

For all the celebrating by both players and coaches about the new redshirt rule approved by the NCAA this season, it really didn’t wind up making much of an impact for Ohio State. The coaching staff wasn’t entirely sure how it would handle the ability to play guys in up to four games without sacrificing eligibility entering the year, and with only the Rose Bowl left, there aren’t many guys who would be candidates to come off the bench for bonus snaps against Washington.

There is one notable exception, and it’s at a position that always figured to be the one where the most value could be extracted. It would take a blowout, of course, but if the Buckeyes are in position to get Matthew Baldwin on the field, that could be a benefit moving forward with a potential quarterback battle on tap in the spring.

The freshman from Texas has already had a boost of more meaningful practice reps this month, particularly when Dwayne Haskins was away from the team for a couple days at the Heisman Trophy presentation. And now that he’s fully healthy after recovering from a knee injury at the end of his high-school career, Baldwin is starting to impress thanks to his arm strength and accuracy.

“Growing every day, and that’s the thing,” Ohio State coach-in-waiting Ryan Day said. “Like Matthew, when he came in, he came off the ACL, and really wasn’t ready to practice in the preseason. And then once the season started, he didn’t really get a whole bunch of reps because we had the ones and Tate [Martell] took reps with the twos.

“So, this is a great opportunity for him to step in and start to get some work, so that’s [why] the confidence in him is growing. Then Tate actually had opportunities to work with the ones and did a nice job.”

Tate Martell-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell could be in the Rose Bowl plans for the Buckeyes. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Martell already has a role in short-yardage situations and could potentially see action again in the Rose Bowl, which might make it unlikely that the Buckeyes put a third quarterback in the field. But the opportunity to do so with a redshirting player like Baldwin is one of the perks the rule was designed to create.

The other is a player who emerges down the stretch and adds more depth, but Ohio State really doesn’t have many surefire candidates in that area since freshmen like defensive backs Sevyn Banks and Cameron Brown have already played in five games and running back Master Teague participated in six. From there, the other options that qualify would be the offensive linemen Ohio State signed in the last cycle, but putting those guys on the field would again likely require a blowout.

There is somebody sitting on three games who would have theoretically been able to play in Pasadena and qualify for a redshirt. But obviously Nick Bosa won’t be needing it.

Ohio State, then, didn’t really do much to massage that rule this season. And odds are, it’s probably not going to change it’s approach much since it tries to limit the redshirts handed out in the first place as it continues to stack loaded recruiting classes on top of each other.

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