Air Noland Ohio State Buckeyes Quarterback

Chip Kelly Not Putting Timeframe On Young Buckeye Quarterbacks

The Buckeyes are one of the rare Power 4 teams that have two true freshman quarterbacks already on campus and competing. It’s not something that Ohio State does often, but sometimes situations arise that require a change of plans.

That’s what happened this offseason when Alabama head coach Nick Saban retired and true freshman Crimson Tide quarterback Julian Sayin decided to transfer to Ohio State where he had a better connection with head coach Ryan Day and the Buckeye coaching staff.

Sayin joined a team that already had true freshman Air Noland, who enrolled in the winter and took part in spring football.

Sayin was one of the bright spots of spring camp for the Buckeyes, losing his black stripe earlier than any OSU quarterback since the tradition began in 2012. Noland, meanwhile, was your typical true freshman quarterback who graduated early and did what he could to keep his head above water during spring practice.

When it comes to true freshman quarterbacks, Ohio State offensive coordinator Chip Kelly has seen it all. That is why he doesn’t necessarily put early expectations on a player. Everybody’s development and response to adversity is different.

“I think it depends on the individual,” Kelly said. “I’ve had some kids where early, you’re like, ‘Wow.'”

That’s what happened for Kelly when he was the head coach at Oregon and future Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota was a true freshman.

“I remember vividly, second practice and he got to the fifth read in the progression and he threw it for this big gain,” Kelly said. “And I asked him why. I do that with all of them. I ask why because I just want to understand it. And I said, ‘Why did you do that?’ And he goes, ‘I don’t know what we call that defense, but there was like a lot of guys over there. And it didn’t seem like there was anybody over there.’ But for him to process it that fast, he was right. And he came back another day, and ‘that was cover six the other day, Coach. I learned what you guys call the coverages.'”

Mariota was a rarity, and perhaps Sayin is as well. An early start does not guarantee a strong finish, however, and a “late start” does not guarantee a poor finish.

Just because a quarterback has two hands doesn’t mean his clock is the same as anybody else’s.

“It all happens differently,” Kelly said. “I’ve got guys that for two years seem like they’re just really struggling and then the light bulb goes off and you go, ‘Whoa. They got it.’ So everybody has different learning styles.”

The learning style is the key to getting the most out of every player. A teaching style is painting with a broad brush, but focusing on the learning style is where all of the details get filled in.

Kelly takes that part of the job very seriously.

“Our job in the evaluation process is to identify those learning styles,” he said. “Are they a cognitive learner? Are they an auditory learner? Do they learn by feel? Is he more a feel guy? A more film guy? It’s all different. And I think we have to keep poking and prodding, and for us as coaches, that’s the challenge, too. What is their best learning style and how can we convey it? Because education basically is just the transportation of knowledge. It really doesn’t matter what I know, or what Ryan knows, it matters what they know.”

Figuring that part out requires a lot of back and forth between the coaches and quarterbacks. Trials and errors. Successes and failures. It is an ongoing process that commands time, resources, and reflection.

“That’s always kind of what we’re working on and studying and thinking about in kind of where we are, and how much can they handle,” Kelly said. “And then how much is too much? Because this may be a great play, I agree 100%, but if he doesn’t feel it’s a good play, then why is it in, you know what I mean? And that’s this whole feeling out process that we’re all in. They’re learning us and we’re learning them.”

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