COLUMBUS — Ohio State and new coach Ryan Day are once again feeling the pains of the NCAA transfer portal after learning that redshirt freshman quarterback Matthew Baldwin would be leaving the program to play closer to his Texas home.
Baldwin, who spent the majority of his true freshman season at Ohio State rehabilitating a torn ACL that he suffered in his final high school game, had been fighting recent transfer addition Justin Fields for a spot as the Buckeyes 2019 starter.
It appears the job now belongs to Fields by default.
Whether or not Fields was likely to be the starter — and he was likely to be the starter — is irrelevant. The loss of Baldwin sends the Buckeyes back to the proverbial drawing board to find another high-caliber, game-ready backup for Fields. And it forces them to do that with spring football already in the books and most of the recent graduate transfers already establishing a new place to call home.
So where do Day and the Buckeyes go from here? There are a few options.
Ohio State can play this season with Fields, Chris Chugunov and Danny Vanatsky
Ironically, former West Virginia grad transfer Chris Chugunov was the lone Ohio State quarterback to have ever started a college game when he completed 45 of 95 passes for 551 yards and three touchdowns in replacement duty for an injured Will Grier in 2017.
This option, let’s call it the nuclear option, isn’t ideal — and would almost certainly require Ohio State to add a second quarterback in the Class of 2020 behind Arizona 4-star Jack Miller. That isn’t something the program wants to do and could potentially cause some risk of losing Miller.
The quarterback position is a fickle one. If this isn’t the winning option, that means finding a new quarterback in the graduate transfer pool.
Where could Ohio State turn in the transfer portal?
Though a number of the quarterbacks who’ve joined the transfer ranks have already found a home, there are some talented players and some big names still worth exploring for the Buckeyes. Ohio State is not likely looking for a young player to transfer in this season, because that would mean sitting out — and that doesn’t accomplish what it needs. So, the graduate transfers are the best option.
Earlier on Thursday, Texas Tech’s Colt Garrett announced that he was leaving that program after graduating. He’d have two years to play and could be eligible immediately, providing some depth for Ohio State not just for this season, but 2020 as well.
Former USC quarterback Matt Fink is expected to graduate in June and would then be eligible immediately at a place like Ohio State and would still have two years ahead of him. Fink is a former 3-star quarterback prospect from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and turned down Boise State, Colorado and almost a dozen others when he picked the Trojans coming out of high school.
If you’re looking for a one-and-done option, an interesting conversation could be had with Penn State’s Tommy Stevens.
He announced on Wednesday he was entering the transfer portal. After years of sitting behind Trace McSorley, the Indiana native could be looking for a place to start — which would seemingly rule out the Buckeyes. But Ohio State did give him a pretty serious look when he came out of Decatur Central High School in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes settled on Joe Burrow as their quarterback in that class.
If the Buckeyes really wanted to get crazy and take a risk, they could kick the tires on Florida State transfer Deondre Francois, who was dismissed by the Seminoles in January following what his uncle called “a few bad decisions.” Francois was a top-100 player as a high school senior and had a Buckeyes offer after playing his senior year at the IMG Academy in Florida.