All quarterback competitions are not created equal.
Ryan Day reminded reporters of that fact Saturday after Ohio State wrapped up spring football with the spring game.
“The guys we have here should have been in high school this time last year, so they don’t have that body of work,” Day said. “They’re still growing. They’re still making mistakes, so to say we know who they are in terms of a finished product, they still have a long way to go.”
That makes this derby between class of 2018 representatives Justin Fields and Matthew Baldwin much different than the one last spring between Joe Burrow, who had been at Ohio State since the summer of 2015, and Dwayne Haskins, who arrived a year later.
“When you had Joe and Dwayne here, they didn’t have a body of work on the field, but they had a body of work practicing,” said Day, who was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach last season and has since replaced Urban Meyer as head coach. “The coaches and myself had gone through it and kind of knew what we had and saw them in the game and then we had to make a decision who was ahead there.”
No starter was named at the end of spring practice, but Burrow’s decision to transfer to LSU cleared the way for Haskins.
Losing Burrow did not come as a huge surprise given that he was older than Haskins and graduating so he could play right away at his new school (without applying for a waiver, as Fields did after transferring from Georgia).
Haskins’ turning in a historic 2018 season and leaving for the NFL Draft with two years of eligibility was not expected this time last summer, though, and that has left the coaching staff with another decision to make this year.
Fields and Baldwin were thrown in the deep end during spring practice, and each had his ups and downs during the spring game that saw both pressured consistently by Ohio State’s deep pool of pass rushers.
Fields completed 4 of 13 passes for 131 yards, including a 98-yard touchdown toss that showed off his ability to throw the deep ball.
He also showed off his running ability with a 30-yard scamper in the second half, though for the most part the quarterbacks weren’t able to use their legs because they were off-limits for contact.
Baldwin completed 9 of 15 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown for the Gray while going 11 for 21 for 127 yards and another touchdown with two interceptions while playing for the Scarlet.
Although Fields took the first snap Saturday and got most of the first-team reps in portions of spring practice open to the media, Day did not name a starter at the conclusion of spring.
Instead, the spring game went as another milestone in the development of both signal-callers.
“I think that when you’re in the meeting room and you’re learning the offense, it’s really difficult,” Day said. "It’s one thing to see it on film. It’s one thing to do it in seven-on-seven when there’s no rush and then in the game when the rush is going.
“It’s all in the progression. You can’t simulate all that. There’s nothing you can do. You have to play the game. There’s so much that goes into it. The protections, and the reps. It’s experience, going through it all.
“The more you know when you step on the field, the more you’re prepared, the better off you’re going to be, but there’s nothing that replaces experience, so the more these guys get to run the offense the better they’ll be.”