COLUMBUS, Ohio — When Baker Mayfield went No. 1 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft on April 26, it offered another reminder that Ohio State might have unearthed quite a gem at quarterback in its 2018 recruiting class.
That’s not to say that Matthew Baldwin will mirror Mayfield’s exact career path. They’re different players with different styles who are years apart in age. But both players come from a quarterback factory in Texas that is producing results at a rate that’s increasingly hard to dismiss as a small sample size.
Beginning with Todd Reesing choosing Kansas in 2006, Austin (Texas) Lake Travis has had eight quarterbacks sign with an FBS program in the last 12 recruiting cycles. Mayfield is the most famous, but there’s been plenty of production from that group. Reesing led Kansas to a record-breaking season that ended in an Orange Bowl win. Garrett Gilbert played for Texas in a BCS National Championship Game and has spent the last four seasons in the NFL. Michael Brewer led Virginia Tech to a 35-21 upset win at Ohio State in 2014. In 2017, Baylor quarterback Charlie Brewer was the Big 12 co-offensive freshman of the year.
Could Baldwin eventually join the ranks of Lake Travis quarterbacks who’ve gone on to impress at the college level? Both where he played and how he plays point to yes.
Start with the way he earned his starting spot. Lake Travis didn’t become a quarterback mecca overnight, but its reputation is stronger than ever these days. Once it became known for quarterbacks, others started to flock there as well. The Cavaliers have no shortage of options to choose from when it comes to finding their quarterback.
“It’s kind of started to perpetuate itself,” said Michael Wall, who was Baldwin’s offensive coordinator at Lake Travis. “There’s good coaching, but it’s such a coveted position. People see our offense as quarterback-friendly. If you had the ability to throw it well, you were going to come here. There’s no shortage of talent, that’s for sure. It’s kind of like, who’s next? There’s been kids in each class who end up not starting, transferring and they go start somewhere else.”
That he ever became the starter at Lake Travis is a testament to Baldwin’s talent. Wall said there were a few other quarterbacks who were either in Baldwin’s grade or one year different who ultimately transferred because they either couldn’t beat out Charlie Brewer or couldn’t pass Baldwin on the depth chart. With so many talented players fighting for a spot, the best players stay and others find a new home.
Baldwin stayed. That in itself was a sign of how good he can be — and also prepared him for what’s coming at Ohio State.
“There’s a huge history of quarterbacks there and I had to compete with Charlie until his senior year and when he graduated,” Baldwin said in February. “So it’s nothing new to me. I’m glad and very grateful for that experience because that’s going to prepare me for what that’s going to be like here. There’s nothing given to you at Ohio State. If you don’t compete for the job, you’re not going to have it. So I think that’s something really exciting to me and intriguing about this place.”
Even aside from those big-picture indicators, though, it’s worth pointing out on a more personal note that Baldwin can sling it with the best of them. His recruitment wasn’t as high profile as other comparable quarterbacks because his first high school start didn’t come until four months before the early signing period began.
However, Baldwin helped Lake Travis to a 13-3 record and an appearance in the Texas Class 6A Division 1 championship game. He exited on the first play with a knee injury, but his talent helped pilot the Cavaliers there in the first place.
“He’s extremely accurate, he’s got great fundamentals and arm strength,” Wall said. “I think his ceiling is great. You won’t find a player who makes better decisions both on and off the field. His commitment is 24-7.”