Ohio State’s already thin quarterback unit took a major hit Thursday with the decision by redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin to transfer.

Throughout the spring, Baldwin competed with new arrival Justin Fields at quarterback. Baldwin, who played at perennial power Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, had given no indication that he was contemplating transferring and told coaches of his final decision only Thursday.

On Thursday night, Baldwin issued a statement on Twitter explaining his decision. He described competing with Fields as an “incredible experience.”

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But he added, “At the same time, spring was a tough time for me personally. My family and I have prayed and talked a lot about where I belong and what is best for me. In the end, we feel it’d be better for me to step away from Ohio State. I want everyone to know this isn’t done out of anger or frustration, but I’m not just a football player.”

Baldwin is expected to transfer to a school in Texas.

Baldwin’s departure leaves Ohio State with Fields and second-year graduate transfer Chris Chugunov as its only scholarship quarterbacks. Walk-on Danny Vanatsky is the only other quarterback on the roster. Teams typically want to have at least four.

pic.twitter.com/SekgqQlPTo

— Matthew Baldwin (@matthewb_12) April 19, 2019

Though Fields was considered the front-runner to succeed Dwayne Haskins Jr. as Ohio State’s starter, first-year coach Ryan Day had steadfastly not named a leader. After the spring game Saturday, Day said he expected the competition between Fields and Baldwin to extend into preseason camp.

Playing for both the Gray and Scarlet teams in the scrimmage, Baldwin completed 20 of 36 passes for 246 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. His first touchdown pass was an 8-yarder to his former high school teammate, Garrett Wilson.

Baldwin did not play last year while he rehabbed from a torn ACL suffered during the Texas high school playoffs as a senior. He injured the knee in Lake Travis’ semifinal victory. Though he knew he had torn the ligament, he attempted to play in the state championship game. But when he dropped back after taking the first snap, the leg gave out.

Baldwin originally committed to Colorado State before Day, then Ohio State’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach, personally recruited him.

Baldwin was eased into practice last fall and made a favorable impression during Ohio State’s Rose Bowl preparation. In the postgame locker room after the Buckeyes’ victory over Washington, Baldwin said he was looking forward to competing for the job. At the time, it was clear that Fields intended to transfer from Georgia but not that Tate Martell would himself transfer to Miami.

“Competition isn’t something I’m afraid of,” Baldwin said then. “If you come to Ohio State thinking there’s not going to be competition, you don’t know what you’re doing. I’ll take on spring with a good mindset.”

On the second day of spring practice in March, Baldwin said he looked forward to competing with Fields, who was ranked as the overall No. 2 prospect in the 2018 recruiting class.

“He has his strengths and weaknesses,” Baldwin said. “I have my strengths and weaknesses. I’m glad I get to compete against a guy like that. No one wants to be handed things, I don’t think, (because) you don’t feel like you earned it. You’re not going to be handed things here, so I never expected that here.”

Last month, Baldwin cited the example of Mitchell Trubisky, who started only one season at North Carolina and became the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft.

“I think patience is a very valuable thing,” Baldwin said. “If you’re in the right place, you can get to where you want to be from there.”

Sometime after that, Baldwin decided that Ohio State was no longer the right place for him.

brabinowitz@dispatch.com

@brdispatch