Devin Brown, Will Howard, Julian Sayin Ohio State Buckeyes Quarterbacks

Spring Recap: Buckeyes Saw Separation At Quarterback Position

With spring football now in the rearview mirror for Ohio State, it’s time to look back at what happened with each position group and where things currently stand for the Buckeyes. We continue our series with the quarterbacks.

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Quick Position Overview

The Buckeyes entered spring camp with five scholarship quarterbacks. Many questions surrounded Ryan Day’s ability to provide those five quarterbacks with enough reps to gather sufficient information to move forward, as well as to give them the reps they needed to improve. All five are talented individuals, but there is one glaring difference between one of them and the other four: the experience of Will Howard, the Kansas State transfer who has over 20 starts to his credit. In contrast, everyone else on the Ohio State quarterback roster has just one start combined, and that was Devin Brown’s start in the Cotton Bowl last year, which lasted about one quarter before he was injured. Brown has been in the system the longest, but doesn’t have a ton to show for it. Redshirt freshman Lincoln Kienholz was thrust into the Cotton Bowl last year and through not fault of his own was not ready for it. He has moved on from that experience, learned from it, and used it as fuel to get right this season. True freshmen Julian Sayin and Air Noland both enrolled early, which is great for them, but it made finding reps for everyone more challenging.

Expectations Going In

The expectations going in were that this was going to be a competition for the starting job between Will Howard and Devin Brown. That was going to be the story. That was going to be the duo from which the starting job would eventually be decided. Devin Brown has not been able to show much in his time at Ohio State due to a lack of opportunity and injuries. Will Howard had ups and downs at Kansas State, with plenty to like and plenty to wonder about. Lincoln Kienholz was thought to be a possibility for contention. Basically, could he make enough of a push in the spring to get into the race?

Reality Coming Out

The reality coming out of spring practice is that this is still a competition between Devin Brown and Will Howard. Lincoln Kienholz was repping third. Julian Sayin was fourth, and Air Noland was fifth. All five quarterbacks got reps throughout with the first team, however. They rotated constantly, but it was Brown and Howard who got the most reps. It’s just sometimes those reps were with the twos and threes. The other reality is that Sayin seemingly closed in on Kienholz quite a bit.

Any Surprises?

The surprise was probably Julian Sayin and the move he made this spring. After enrolling at Alabama and then transferring to Ohio State shortly after Nick Saban’s retirement, it wasn’t clear exactly what to expect. How quickly would he pick things up? How quickly would he integrate into a new place? Turns out, it didn’t take all that long. He’s the type of guy who always wants to be the smartest quarterback in the room and works hard to make that happen. He picks things up quickly and processes things quickly. He is criticized for not looking like your NFL prototype, but he gets rid of the ball quickly and gets it to the right places. He is still just a freshman, but he performed in a much more advanced way this spring than most freshmen.

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Unanswered Question

The unanswered question is, ‘Hey, who’s Ohio State starting quarterback?’ Right now the betting favorite is still Will Howard. Howard didn’t transfer to Ohio State to sit for his final year of college. They’re not going to just give him the job, but if he is already even with Devin Brown from the outset, it would seem to follow that he should eventually surpass Brown as he gains more understanding and control of the offense. That is assuming Howard’s play this spring actually has him even or better.

So Now What?

Now, the Ohio State coaches are working to ensure that the quarterbacks know they are valued. The spring transfer portal window is open and it’s impossible to discuss the Ohio State quarterbacks without mentioning the transfer portal. Conversations are taking place so that the players know where they stand. The coaches have held or are holding these meetings this week. Communication has been open throughout the spring and will remain so through the summer, into the fall, and after the season. Nobody is caught off guard by what is happening. This ongoing process and open lines of communication make it all a bit easier to handle, even though there is really nothing easy about dealing with the transfer portal and constantly re-recruiting your own players.

Air Noland Ohio State Buckeyes Quarterback
Air Noland

One Concern

The primary concern here is that Ohio State might be the most talented team in the nation with aspirations for the national championship. Yet, the uncertainties at the quarterback position could arise at a particularly inopportune time for this program. Generally under Ryan Day the Buckeyes are not hindered by the quarterback. That might end up being the case this year. However, how much can the talent on this team be restrained by a quarterback who is merely “good enough?” If the quarterbacks can simply move the offense, advance the chains, distribute the ball, and be the point guard that Ryan Day desires, things should be fine. But what happens when one of these quarterbacks needs to win a game?

Are We Sure?

Are we sure that it’s okay to be so concerned about the quarterbacks when you factor in Ryan Day and offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, and the Buckeye running game with TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins, and the talent at receiver, and the defensive system that the Buckeyes have with Jim Knowles, and the talent that they have in the secondary and on the defensive line? Is it okay to be so concerned about the quarterbacks considering they don’t necessarily need to be outstanding, they just need to be good? You would think that a starting quarterback at Ohio State would be good enough. But was Kyle McCord good enough? Or is he the proof of concept for the concern?


“You always want to do it earlier, but I also believe every time I’ve been involved in this is that it kind of happens organically and authentically because the players know. And if you say, ‘Hey, we decided we’re going to be with Joe,’ and they all think it’s Tim, they know. They’re in the locker room with them every day. Players understand who they’d feel is the guy and most of the time the decision is very obvious and you just say, ‘Hey, this is where we are.’ But there’s that timetable thing and I can’t give you an exact timetable on that.” — Chip Kelly on a timetable for naming a starting quarterback.

Depth Chart

33 Devin Brown, rSoph OR
18 Will Howard, rSr
3 Lincoln Kienholz, rFr OR
10 Julian Sayin, Fr
12 Air Noland, Fr

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