Moving all the way across the country from California, Baugh found himself cited twice for underage drinking, first in July and then again in January. The first transgression lost him his summer financial aid, and the second made some wonder whether the tight end would stay at Ohio State for the long haul. On top of that, he redshirted during his initial campaign despite entering OSU as the third-ranked tight end in the class of 2013, and he's also battled illness since arriving.
So it's fair to say that Baugh hit adversity during his early time in Columbus, but if life is about how you bounce back from troubles, it appears that Baugh is making progress.
"He certainly learned a lot of adult lessons, and the expectations at Ohio State and the fan base and the administration is very high," tight ends coach Tim Hinton said. "We're not going to change our expectations, so he had some of those ups and downs, and he is growing from them. He's learning from them."
From a football perspective, Baugh appears to be coming into his own, or "coming out of my shell," as he put it.
After sitting last year – it made sense, considering there weren't many spare reps after starter Jeff Heuerman and backup Nick Vannett – Baugh has returned to the practice field and been a matchup nightmare in practices attended by the media. He cemented his role as one of the team's spring stars in Saturday's open practice when he caught two long touchdown passes from classmate J.T. Barrett in a five-minute span.
"It was good," he said of the student appreciation practice. "Redshirting last year, I wasn't able to play in front of crowds and get cheered on, but it was a good feeling, especially by the students. … I thank J.T. for the balls he was throwing."
And with Heuerman out this spring with a pair of injuries, Baugh has seen some time with the first unit when the Buckeyes go to 12 (one running back, two tight ends) personnel. At 6-4 and more than 240 pounds, he has prototypical size for the position, and Baugh's speed for such a big man has made him a dependable target capable of big plays down the field for the Buckeyes.
"A lot of the crossing routes across the field, I'm really good at that," he said. "Especially if you match me up against a middle backer, I can really do some damage with that."
Baugh said that confidently but not in a cocky fashion, and he knows there's parts of his game that need to continue to improve. Hinton points to experience and consistency as missing parts of the equation as well as the place where every pass-catching tight end seems to struggle early in their career – with blocking at the point of attack.
"He's very athletic," Hinton said. "There's no doubt about it. He's a very athletic, young tight end. He has to learn to block better at the point of attack and that'll come with strength. That'll come with physical maturity, and that'll come with having confidence in yourself and all those things that you develop.
"You look at the development of Nick, he's so much better than he was a year ago, and where he is today is like completely different. Every day you go out and it's another learning opportunity, it's another opportunity to get better. We very seldom back off of them here. We're going to push them to be a little better every day."
The off-the-field work will be just a process of getting better every day as well. While Baugh's transgressions have been relatively minor, they have taken on added importance given the bright lights and big stage at a place like Ohio State.
"It's certainly a challenge," Hinton said. "I'm not going to deny that challenge that is put upon a young kid, and Ohio State is one of those places – look around right now. There's a lot of microphones and TV cameras and a lot of interest. We're very happy with that. We're glad it's that way. That's part of the expectations at Ohio State. You have to learn to act like an Ohio State football player, live under Coach (Urban) Meyer's rules. I gotta tell you, he's really trying to get that done, and I'm very proud of him.
"The nice thing is that Marcus has a clear understanding that there's expectations in this program. He knows what is expected of him. He knows how to handle his life. Every day we work to improve who he is as a person and make sure that he lives up to the expectations at Ohio State."
Baugh will likely enter the 2014 season as the third tight end with a chance to get his feet wet on the college field and prepare for a much bigger role as a sophomore once Heuerman graduates.
The goal each day is to keep taking steps to get better both on and off the field, and if he does that, his upcoming time at OSU will go much more according to plan than the first.
"He'll have spurts where he does some things really well and then he has spurts that he looks like a doggone freshman," Hinton said. "Our job is to get him looking good all the time, but he battles, he fights, he doesn't complain, and he just tries to make himself better. I'm very, very proud of him."