Ryan Day has been doing the thing every good head coach does during the spring. During his press conferences over the last month or so, he’s given glowing reviews about both Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin, the two guys battling for Ohio State’s starting quarterback position.
Throughout the last month or so, Day has talked about how well both guys have performed this spring, talking primarily about similar leadership qualities and high completion percentage during practice. It’s a perfect approach to increase the competition level and avoid alienating one of your guys, especially with such limited depth at the position.
“The completion percentage is pretty close right now with those guys,” Day said earlier this spring, talking about the ongoing quarterback battle. He also praised Fields and Baldwin for throwing the ball accurately down the field.
But just how close is the battle between Fields and Baldwin? Well, we’re not going to have to wait much longer to find out.
Fields was expected to be handed the keys to Ohio State’s offense immediately after stepping foot in Columbus. Even though he was told he’d have to “earn everything” by Day, there wasn’t much thought that any of the other quarterbacks on the Buckeyes’ roster would give the former five-star gunslinger any trouble.
Even in Day’s most recent press conference, it sounds like Fields is creating some separation based on natural ability.
“Very impressed with his ability to retain information, his football IQ,” Day said of Fields. “You forget for such a mature kid, he really hasn’t played much football at all…really he’s a freshman.
“His physical traits are tremendous, just in terms of his size, ability to move, strong arm. But then also he has good tangibles. He understands what’s going on, he sees his defenses, he has good football IQ.”
Day had strong remarks regarding Baldwin too, talking about how the longest-tenured Ohio State quarterback has shown significant progress in spring and that he embodies what it means to be a “Buckeye.” The head coach just didn’t have quite the same glowing review about the talent level.
“I think he’s building his confidence every day. I think the best practices he’s had is probably the last four or five,” Day said. “Really impressed with the way he goes to work every day. He’s a Buckeye, and that’s important. That’s really important to our team.”
Read into that what you will. Whether Day was shedding some light on the quarterback situation or if he was just highlighting the positive characteristics about each player, it seems that he’s got a favorite in mind to be the starter come fall, even if he hasn’t named one just yet.
While the assumption is that Fields will be the guy come August, there’s still a bit of mystery surrounding the quarterback situation in Columbus. That primarily stems from the fact that we haven’t seen much from either guy early in their careers. Day’s remarks about the close battle throughout spring only adds a little more interest to the competition.
It won’t be much of a mystery after this weekend. With Ohio State going “good vs. good and reserves vs. reserves” in the spring game, Fields and Baldwin will be tested. In front of a crowd of at least 63,000 (the latest approximation of sold tickets), and a live audience on national television, both quarterbacks will have the opportunity show what they bring to the table.
Day has done a great job building up both quarterbacks throughout the spring — just as any coach would. But we’ll see what the situation at the game’s most important position is like soon enough.
If Fields and Baldwin are really in a tight race for the starting job, we’ll find out on Saturday. If Fields has created enough separation to lock down the No. 1 spot, we’ll see that too.