No one had more to lose than Jacob Carter when Tim Baldwin moved into Patriot’s school zone in early July and began working out with the football team.
After leading the three-time defending district champions in rushing in 2018 to earn first-team all-Cedar Run District honors, Carter was the obvious choice to reclaim the starting job entering the 2019 season.
Baldwin, though, had the potential to upend Carter’s role following his transfer from Broad Run. The senior also had an impressive profile, rushing for 1,000 yards or more his sophomore and junior seasons to earn second-team all-state honors in 2018.
The issue resolved itself without incident. Baldwin had no intention of replacing Carter, only complementing him. And Carter welcomed Baldwin’s arrival, recognizing the four-star recruit could help in a number of ways.
Baldwin would give Carter a breather to rest up as the team’s top cornerback. Baldwin will get the chance to rotate in on defense, possibly at linebacker. And Baldwin is one more asset for a team already loaded at the skill positions.
“Jacob wants to win no matter what,” said Patriot first-year head coach Sean Finnerty.
Besides Carter, a senior who holds an offer from Division II West Liberty, Patriot brings back wide receiver Tyler Settle, a senior and first-team all-district wide receiver with three Division 2 offers, multi-purpose threat Jalen Stroman, a junior who holds offers from Virginia Tech, Virginia and Kent State, and quarterback Cody Rogers. Rogers, a junior with an offer from William & Mary, served as 2019 graduate Chris Sonnenberg’s back-up the last two seasons and started when Sonnenberg was injured.
Sophomore Bryce Jackson is also in the mix. A VISAA Division 1 second-team all-state defensive back last season who transferred from O’Connell. Jackson will be used primarily at safety this season, but can play in the slot.
With so many pieces in place going into Thursday’s first day of practice, Finnerty sees Baldwin’s arrival as a win-win for the Pioneers.
“It was not really about him fitting in but where we can use him best to make our football team better,” Finnerty said.
Senior lineman Tyler Negron said he noticed Baldwin’s impact immediately. One day during an afternoon weightlifting session, Baldwin explained to Negron how a change in the way the running backs lined up could improve a play. The suggestion made sense to Negron.
“He brings a leadership mentality,” said Negron, who holds 19 offers himself. “He knows the game. He’s not coming in here thinking he’s above us.”
Baldwin played a big part in helping the Spartans go 21-4 over the last two seasons. But he said it was no secret he wanted to transfer from Broad Run after deciding in January to leave the Loudoun County school. The only question was where he would end up.
“[Broad Run] wasn’t the best place for me,” Baldwin said.
His plans cleared up when Finnerty hired Obie Woods as his offensive coordinator this summer after interviewing him in June. Woods has known Baldwin since the seventh grade and was Baldwin’s head coach on a travel team when Baldwin was an eighth grader.
“That was the icing on the cake,” Baldwin said when Woods joined Patriot’s staff after spending last season as O’Connell’s quarterbacks coach. “He’s one of the best coaches around. He’s open. Some coaches have their own systems and don’t listen to anyone. He wants to put you in the best position possible.”
Finnerty said he heard through the grapevine that Baldwin might transfer to Patriot. When the move was official, Finnerty knew the 5-foot-11, 205-pound Baldwin offered an ideal candidate for Patriot’s offense.
“We run a gap-scheme where the running back cuts once and goes,” Finnerty said. “The way he runs it is perfect for us.”
Next to 2019 graduate Jakai Moore, an offensive lineman who signed with South Carolina, Baldwin is the highest rated prospect in Patriot’s football history since the school opened in 2011.
Baldwin committed to Michigan Nov. 4, 2018, but then backed out of his commitment 22 days later. He said he rethought his decision after the Wolverines’ 62-39 loss to Ohio State Nov. 24.
“[It] wasn’t the best time to be committed,” Baldwin said.
Rated the 15th best prospect in Virginia for the class of 2020 by 247Sports, Baldwin said he has no specific timeline for making a decision or setting up any official visits.
“I’m redoing things,” said Baldwin who holds 15 offers with Michigan, Syracuse, West Virginia, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Maryland and Georgia Tech among them. “It’s a different process. It’s a new coach and new recruiting. I don’t want to be rushed.”