Ohio State: Transfer portal makes building quarterback depth even tougher

Austin Wardover 2 years
Aritcle written by:Austin WardAustin Ward


Matt Baldwin 3 by Birm:Lettermen Row

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 about 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 Matthew Baldwin leaving Ohio State? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Matthew Baldwin has made his decision, and there’s virtually no chance that he’ll be changing his mind at this point.

When the Ohio State redshirt freshman put in his request to enter the transfer portal, it wasn’t a rash, knee-jerk reaction to the end of spring or some sort of threat to try to wring out playing time. Baldwin is a rational thinker, he has tremendous respect for coach Ryan Day and he doesn’t crave public attention — so, this isn’t something that is going to be undone. The ramifications had been discussed before his name was entered anyway, so there’s no reason to expect anybody to turn back now.

There’s also nothing wrong with players having more freedom now to find the right situation for themselves. It’s a positive development for the people actually on the field each week, but it’s obviously come at the expense of programs as they plan for the future. And there’s nowhere this issue hits harder than at quarterback, as Ohio State obviously knows after completely remaking its depth chart at the most important position on the roster via the transfer market.

Justin Fields-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State landed Justin Fields on the transfer market this offseason. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Justin Fields arrived as the new starter via that process. Both Tate Martell and Matthew Baldwin are leaving through it. Even current backup Chris Chugunov was added as a graduate transfer last season, and Ohio State is almost certainly going to be looking for another one to bolster the depth chart in the weeks ahead.

The reasons can vary, of course. But whether it’s playing time or homesickness, it really doesn’t matter and it’s easier than it’s ever been for players to seek the perfect fit. And that is making it harder than ever for coaches to put a blueprint at quarterback in place for more than a season or two before inevitably having to go back to the drawing board.

Thanks to Baldwin’s patience in high school as he waited before starting for just a year at powerhouse Lake Travis in Texas, Ohio State believed it had somebody it could develop for a couple seasons as a backup before eventually turning over the offense to him. With at least two years of Fields, the possibility of two more from Baldwin and then commit Jack Miller coming in the pipeline after that, the Buckeyes looked completely set into the foreseeable future.

Of course, those plans a year ago included a couple years with Dwayne Haskins or Joe Burrow before following that up with Martell, and now all three of those guys are gone thanks to the NFL Draft, the graduate transfer rule and the portal.

“We want to recruit guys when they’re freshmen, sophomores, guys who want to be Buckeyes, build relationships over time,” Day said earlier this year. “We don’t want to rely on that. However, since there’s been such a change with this transfer portal, grad transfers becoming available, we have to be able to adapt, look at those things in order to be competitive.

“At the end of the day, what matters is winning championships.”

Considering just how important the quarterback position is in building a contender, the degree of difficulty is only getting higher.

Few teams have had to get such a rigorous, crash-course education on how to navigate the portal like Ohio State has over the last year. And with Matthew Baldwin on the way out now, the Buckeyes still aren’t done with it yet.

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