Julian Sayin, Air Noland Ohio State Buckeyes Quarterbacks

‘Old School’ Julian Sayin Driven From A Very Young Age

Life as an older brother can sometimes involve having your younger brother tagging along, and that’s exactly what Aidan Sayin experienced with his younger brother Julian.

Julian Sayin is now a freshman quarterback at Ohio State, while Aidan is the starting quarterback at Penn. Long before both were on their respective campuses, however, it was Julian in tow behind Aidan as the two worked towards being the quarterbacks they’ve since become.

Both players eventually attended and started at Carlsbad High School in Carlsbad, California. Four years ago, Aidan was the senior starter and Julian was his freshman backup.

Julian then went on to start for three years at Carlsbad, throwing for 7,824 yards in his career, including 85 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. As a senior, he threw 24 touchdowns and one interception.

But the journey began long before high school.

Carlsbad High head football coach Thadd MacNeal first saw Julian Sayin showing up for workouts as a fourth grader. MacNeal generally doesn’t train quarterbacks that young, so Julian ran routes for the other quarterbacks — including his brother.

“He had a really, really strong drive at a young age. I mean, you could just see how focused he was just from being a little guy,” MacNeal told Buckeye Huddle. “But he just worked his way into wanting to throw the ball with his brother. He has a very, very competitive edge to him. He always has. I’m not surprised at all by what’s been happening. He’s been a very, very locked in and focused kid from a young age.”

Sayin capped his high school career by being a five-star recruit and coveted by every major university in the country. And from the fourth grade through the ninth grade, Julian was there with his brother doing his best to keep up.

It continues to pay off.

“Yeah, it was really fun, really,” MacNeal said. “They practiced together every single day and it was great competition then. But it just sped up his progression as a QB being with the varsity really since freshman year. So he was in our system, the terminology, and really knowing how to operate our offense. I don’t have very many freshmen that are at least practicing with the varsity, so that helped him a lot.”

Seeing Things Early

Thadd MacNeal has been the head coach at Carlsbad High for 13 years and seen 18 of his quarterbacks earn scholarships from Division I programs. He also attended Carlsbad (and played quarterback), so he’s seen just about all there is to see when it comes to playing quarterback in the California high school ranks.

And even having seen as much as he has, Julian Sayin stands out.

It was Sayin’s sophomore season when MacNeal started to be convinced that he had a high-level quarterback prospect on his hands.

“I’m kind of old school with QBs in that I want them to prove it and show it on the field rather than in shorts throwing against air or during drills and stuff like that at camps or whatever,” MacNeal said. “He started to get some headway really before he’d even played. But for me, he needed to play in varsity games. His sophomore year we went 10-0, and he had two come-from-behind, really dramatic wins. And that’s when I said, ‘Okay, this guy, he’s got some extra factors that are going to help him to become a great quarterback down the road.’

Despite being a five-star prospect, the doubts have continued to follow Julian Sayin. Listed at 6-foot-1 and under 200 pounds in high school, his was not a visage that screamed out prototype.

But there’s a reason quarterbacks are ultimately judged by how well they throw the ball, and not how tall they are while throwing it.

MacNeal saw everything he needed to in every single game, and it was all positive.

“He’s not Ben Roethlisberger. He’s not a huge guy. But he’s big enough, you know?” he said. “And he’s just such a clean passer. He’s so efficient with the way the ball comes out of his hand. And then his arm strength got better and better. But the number one thing, at least for me, is accuracy. So he had that. And then a command of our offense. He would develop that pretty young as a sophomore.

“But in pressure situations, he always comes through. Julian in three years of being a starter for me had only one game that was — for our standards — subpar. He never have a bad game. But he had one game that wasn’t his best game. But every other game, this guy was lights out. I mean, he’s so good. The consistency and the accuracy.”

Built For This

The last few months have been eventful for Julian Sayin. He enrolled at Alabama in January, then transferred to Ohio State when Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban retired.

The transfer to Ohio State was helped by the presence of OSU offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who recruited Sayin to Alabama. O’Brien left a few weeks after taking the job to become the head coach at Boston College. O’Brien was then quickly replaced by UCLA head coach Chip Kelly.

That’s a lot for a true freshman quarterback to handle — especially when he could still be in high school.

Instead, Sayin put his head down, studied the offense, and was able to take the classroom to the field.

“Speaking to Coach Kelly, he said the biggest thing that he was impressed with was Julian being able to articulate pass protections and really catching on to their concepts pretty fast for a freshman,” MacNeal said. “I had such a ball coaching him because I’m a football nerd at the end of the day, and I coach our quarterbacks and he ate it up. We would nerd out weekly preparing for our opponent and he was all in.”

They say if you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life. The same goes for being a quarterback. If you love the process, the results will love you back.

For Thadd MacNeal, he found somebody in Julian Sayin who loved the process as much as he does.

“The dream of a coach is that your quarterback thinks like the offensive coordinator,” he said. “And so that’s always my goal for our QBs to think how I’m going to think. The checks that I want to do and where we want the ball to be distributed. He’s excelled at that and I’m hoping that it just continues at Ohio State.”

Julian Sayin
Julian Sayin

Leading By Examples

As a sophomore starting quarterback, Julian Sayin didn’t need to be a vocal leader. There were upperclassmen who handled that aspect of the team. It was a senior-heavy team, so he instead simply let his play do his speaking.

But his teammates saw how serious he was about football and how locked in he was, so they naturally followed him anyway.

“I can tell you he got voted captain as a junior and that’s only the second time that’s happened to me at Carlsbad because we only have senior captains,” MacNeal said.

Leading is a process that takes time and doesn’t just happen with a declaration or statement. It requires results. And with the senior class gone and Sayin a returning starter as a junior, he still led by example, but he also started leading in other ways as well.

“That’s when he really started to be a little bit more vocal,” MacNeal said. “He’s an encouraging person, though, as far as like, he’s not gonna cuss you out. He’s gonna encourage you to do the right thing. But he’s gonna keep you accountable. That’s what I think is one of his best qualities is — he keeps guys accountable. If they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. If they’re not reaching the expectation that he has, he’ll let them know.”

Why Ohio State?

Julian Sayin has taken the road less traveled to get to Ohio State. But there was a scenario where he could have ended up a Buckeye from the outset.

“They were always right there but they had Dylan Raiola, he committed pretty early. So that kind of changed some things,” MacNeal said of Sayin’s recruitment.

Raiola was going to be OSU head coach Ryan Day’s lone quarterback in the 2024 recruiting class, but he eventually decommitted from Ohio State, sending the Buckeyes back to the drawing board.

Day offered Sayin and there was definitely interest there, but there was too much ground to gain and Alabama won out. When Saban retired, the relationship that Ohio State had struck with Sayin ended up making an OSU a natural fit.

“He was never intending to go to a West Coast school,” MacNeal said.


“You know, it’s the football powers of where we are today,” he explained. “It’s Ohio State. It’s Alabama. It’s Georgia. It’s Clemson. It’s Texas. The West Coast is not as strong right now. U Dub had an unbelievable year. We had a safety on that team too. But it’s not like Washington is competing for a national championship every year.

“Julian Sayin, he wants to win a national championship. He wants to play at the highest, highest level. And so obviously Ohio State is going to be in the conversation every single year. And the way that they’ve added a lot of talent, that’s pretty exciting for him.”

Doubt Him At Your Own Risk

Julian Sayin was the Elite 11 MVP in 2023, which was a nice feather in the cap for the rising senior. He went through the regional and national quarterback competition, often besting players who had been previously rated ahead of him.

Sayin will find the competition and he will do whatever he can to win it. He has had his doubters in the past, and he’s always been able to use it to motivate him.

“He’s got a chip on his shoulder. Guys doubt him,” MacNeal said. “There were other quarterbacks at one time that were ranked higher than him and he just wants to prove to everyone that he’s the best.”

On one hand, Sayin is motivated by competition. And on the other hand, the competition doesn’t always move the needle.

“One thing when he was being recruited is that he never asked, ‘Who are you recruiting? Who’s in the room?'” MacNeal said. “He didn’t care. That was almost irrelevant.”

This was evident when Sayin transferred to Ohio State despite the Buckeyes already having signed a 2024 five-star quarterback in Air Noland.

Sayin and MacNeal heard the doubts then as well.

“It’s like when he went to Ohio State, everyone was like, ‘Why is he going there?'” MacNeal said. “And I said, ‘This is what’s going to happen, he’s gonna go there. He’s just gonna put his head down and compete. And then at the end of the day, he’ll be there standing at the end.’ That’s just his mentality.

“Respect to everybody, but Coach Day never made any promises about that room. They have an incoming freshman that is a highly touted recruit as well, but he just wants to compete. So what motivates him is competition, man. That’s what motivates him.”

Growing, But Mature

Thadd MacNeal has done what he could for Julian Sayin, but now the continuation of the process falls to the Ohio State coaching staff. Ryan Day’s quarterback history is stellar, which helped make OSU an easy destination.

There is still work to do, however.

“Well, I think physically, he needs to keep getting bigger and stronger,” MacNeal said. “He’s barely out of high school. So I think that frame, considering the amount of games that Ohio State will play, and obviously the competition, I think that’s probably number one. And then he has to be the smartest guy in the room. He has to master that offense. And then college defenses are way more complex than high school defenses, so that mastery as well.”

The basic mechanics will continue to be refined, but the release won’t be changed. It’s too good and too effective. The maturation physically and mentally will be ongoing, but the one thing that won’t change is Sayin’s approach to the game.

It has worked perfectly to this point.

“He just wants to go out and compete,” MacNeal said. “He’s one of the most humble kids I’ve ever been around. All through high school he would deflect the attention. He’s just different that way. He’s not trying to seek likes on Twitter. He’s trying to get respect from his teammates.”

Julian Sayin has come a long way from those days as a fourth grader catching passes, but his approach has never strayed. It has always been true.

And MacNeal isn’t expecting anything different at Ohio State.

“He’s a really hard worker,” he said. “He’s old school, and I’m really proud of that because that’s how I would want him to be. He’s old school. He wants to go work hard and prove people wrong.”

Other conversations with coaches.

More Than Just Talent Separates James Peoples From The Rest

‘Big Ol’ Kid’ Eddrick Houston A Humble Star

Go to discussion...