Air Noland Quarterback

Enrolling Early A Beneficial Head Start For Air Noland And Julian Sayin

The Buckeyes are about to head into spring camp with true freshman quarterbacks Air Noland and Julian Sayin, who were both former five-star recruits as high schoolers.

It is a completely unheard of situation and a excessive display of freshman talent not seen in college football since … well … Ohio State fall practice of 2021 when quarterbacks Kyle McCord and Quinn Ewers were both former five-star recruits and true freshmen for the Buckeyes.

Okay, so maybe it isn’t so unheard of but it’s still pretty excessive.

Air Noland committed to Ohio State last April and signed in December. He was ranked the No. 3 quarterback in the nation per Rivals. Julian Sayin — Rivals’ No. 2 quarterback — originally signed with Alabama in December but transferred to Ohio State last month following the retirement of Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban.

It wasn’t exactly how OSU head coach Ryan Day planned it, but in today’s college football, having more talent at quarterback is always better than having less.

Both quarterbacks are enrolled and they are now just a couple of weeks away from starting spring practice. Despite the lofty recruiting rankings, the expectations will be rather muted this spring.

“You got Julian, he is coming in from from California. You have Air coming in from Georgia, and when everything’s new, there’s an adjustment phase,” Day said recently. “That’s like that for every freshman, and so every day that goes by, they’re getting more and more comfortable here and getting their feet underneath them. They’re gonna have to learn the offense here and get going on the field.”

They will also have to get to know a new position coach as former UCLA head coach Chip Kelly was brought in last week to replace Bill O’Brien, who held the job for three weeks at Ohio State.

Winter workouts are underway. Voluntary throwing, film work, and playbook study are as well. The feet are getting wet every day, which is the point of enrolling early. It’s also why college coaches push for it more and more, and also why they don’t necessarily need to push for it. Players understand the impact that it has.

“It used to be that when you came in mid-year it was big, significant, the fact that you’re coming in mid-year. Now it’s a little bit more normal,” Day said. “Guys are planning their sophomore and junior years around graduating in mid-year and it allows everybody an opportunity as they come in, in the summer to not be a freshman anymore. So everything that’s going on is new. And so you know they’re gonna have to embrace everything that’s going on new and I think that’s hard.”

Two’s Company

Generally, a recruiting class features just one quarterback. When there are two quarterbacks in a class, they are constantly compared to each other. They are judged against each other. They are competing against each other before they even know where their first classes are.

This will also give Sayin and Noland a head start when it comes time to compete for a starting spot — as well as the backup spot. Given the lack of experience returning at quarterback for the Buckeyes this year, that battle for the backup job could begin next month.

Ohio State went to the transfer portal and landed Kansas State quarterback Will Howard, who has 27 career starts, but redshirt sophomore Devin Brown is the only other Buckeye quarterback with a start in his career. That start came in December’s Cotton Bowl and ended in a first-half injury. He was replaced by true freshman Lincoln Kienholz, who is also about to experience his first spring camp as a Buckeye.

Perhaps things would have ended differently in the Cotton Bowl if Kienholz had enrolled back in the winter instead of the summer. Whether or not the outcome would have changed, Kienholz still would have been better equipped to handle what was thrown at him.

That is one of the benefits of enrolling early, and both Julian Sayin and Air Noland will be able to gain from this experience even though it won’t be easy.

“But it’s great when you have — like, Lincoln didn’t go through that last year. And we knew that,” Day explained. “Lincoln was a tremendous basketball player and a tremendous baseball player, and we sat down with the family and said, ‘We’re going to be a little bit behind here if we come in during the summer,’ we knew that. So that was part of the agreement, but we knew that he was going to be a little behind. I feel like with these guys coming in now, there’ll be further ahead and be able to make more of an impact in the fall.”

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