Air Noland Looks Forward to Spring Football, Welcomes Competition With Julian Sayin: “We Will Battle, And We Will Have Competitive Excellence Toward Each Other”

By Chase Brown on March 2, 2024 at 4:28 pm
Air Noland

When the Buckeyes signed Air Noland on Dec. 20, 2023, Ryan Day called him the future leader of the program.

“Air Noland is special in a lot of different ways,” he said. “The way he conducts himself, and the way he handles himself, he’s high-end.”

Noland’s on-field performance also impressed the Ohio State head. Before Noland signed with the Buckeyes, he had completed 67% of his passes for 10,164 yards, 126 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in four seasons at Langston Hughes High School in Fairburn, Georgia.

“He’s a baller out there,” Day said. “He makes a lot of plays. He’s a state champ. He was high school teammates with Jelani Thurman, so we were down there some, and we got to see who he was. We saw the people, the area, the school – the coaches talked about what a great player he was and what a great leader he was. When you talk to him, you recognize how mature he is. We love that part of it. We feel like he has a high ceiling. When he gets here, I look forward to working with him.”

When Day made those comments about Noland, he was the Buckeyes’ lone quarterback in the 2024 class. One month later, however, Julian Sayin – the No. 1 overall quarterback in the cycle, according to the 247Sports composite – transferred to Ohio State from Alabama after Nick Saban retired as the Crimson Tide’s head coach.

Such a move could have threatened Noland. Instead, he welcomes the challenge.

“Julian pushes me, and I push him,” Noland told Eleven Warriors on Saturday at The 1870 Society’s Open House at the Woody.

Noland’s relationship with Sayin started last summer at the Elite 11 showcase in Los Angeles. There, Sayin took home MVP honors for his accuracy, arm strength and poise in 7-on-7 competition. Noland also excelled as one of the event’s top performers. The pair left Southern California as friends, and they picked up right where they left off when Sayin arrived in Columbus.

“We were buddies at Elite 11, where he came out and won it. But now we’ll get to put on the pads and whatnot. We’re gonna see each other the same way we saw each other at the Elite 11, but now we are teammates,” Noland said. “We’ll have to compete. We will be teammates who will push each other every day. We will battle, and we will have competitive excellence toward each other. That’s what being the best of buddies and true teammates means.”

“We will be teammates who will push each other every day. We will battle, and we will have competitive excellence toward each other. That’s what being the best of buddies and true teammates means.”– Air Noland on his relationship with Julian Sayin

Noland and Sayin’s battle is a microcosm of a larger quarterback competition that will occur at Ohio State this offseason. 

After Kyle McCord transferred to Syracuse, Devin Brown and Lincoln Kienholz had inconsistent and incomplete performances in Ohio State’s Cotton Bowl loss to Missouri. The Buckeyes responded with the addition of former Kansas State quarterback Will Howard from the transfer portal.

While Howard’s experience makes him the probable frontrunner, Day has said that Brown, Kienholz and, to a lesser extent, Noland and Sayin have a chance to be Ohio State’s QB1 in 2024.

“It’s gonna be a fierce competition this spring,” Day said on Feb. 7. “That’s good. It’s healthy. If you don’t want to compete, Ohio State is probably not the right place for you. It makes everybody in that room better. They will embrace it.”

Noland agreed with Day’s sentiment on Saturday.

“Iron sharpens iron,” he said, his voice full of confidence and conviction.

Across Ohio State’s 15 spring practices, Noland hopes to improve his athleticism and become a more mobile quarterback. He also wants to become more proficient at reading defenses. In both areas, Noland said offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Chip Kelly will be an invaluable resource, given his experience instructing quarterbacks and leading both college programs and NFL franchises in the past.

“Chip Kelly is a great coach,” Noland said. “He’s very smart. He’s very intelligent. His intelligence is – I just love him as a coach.”

Noland said Day is continuing to work with the quarterbacks when time allows.

“That’s been interesting to see,” Noland said. “(Day and Kelly) have been very tied in and locked in with each other. I know Coach Kelly comes from UCLA, and he’s come a long way. Coach Day has been here for a while, and bringing in Coach Kelly does nothing but help us and our room.”

Ohio State’s first spring practice is on Tuesday, marking Noland’s first chance to improve. He looks forward to the opportunity.

“I’m super excited,” Noland said. “I hope to help my teammates build every day. I hope to get out there and keep building, keep progressing and learning every day. I know it’s not just about me. It’s about the team.”

Visit Eleven Warriors’ YouTube page to see all of our interviews from The 1870 Society’s Open House at the Woody, including interviews with the following players:

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