Better Know a Buckeye: Air Noland’s Accuracy and Proven Production Gives the Left-Hander Plenty of Confidence Despite Competition at Quarterback

By Josh Poloha on April 12, 2024 at 1:35 pm
Air Noland

Better Know A Buckeye is our look at every member of Ohio State’s 2024 recruiting class and how they became Buckeyes as they prepare to begin their OSU careers this fall.

Air Noland (No. 4 quarterback, No. 56 overall) was one of the best quarterbacks in his class, yet his road to Columbus was quite a roller-coaster. Add in the fact that he is now one of two quarterbacks in the 2024 class at Ohio State and, well, Noland's college career seems to be continuing as the roller-coaster that his recruitment was.

Air Noland

  • Size: 6-2/192
  • Pos: QB
  • School: Langston Hughes (Fairburn, Georgia)
  • Star Rating: ★★★★
  • Composite Rank: #56 (#4 QB)

How He Became a Buckeye

When Dylan Raiola surprisingly committed to Ohio State on May 9, 2022, Ohio State thought it had its quarterback and crown jewel for the 2024 class. That all changed when the five-star quarterback decommitted from the Buckeyes later that year on Dec. 17.

It was back to the drawing board for OSU's coaching staff to identify its quarterback in the class. Noland and five-star quarterback Julian Sayin were the only two gunslingers who received an offer from the Buckeyes after Raiola decommitted and Ryan Day and Co. quickly identified Noland as the quarterback Ohio State wanted in the class. They reconnected with the four-star prospect, a rekindled relationship that led to Noland and the Buckeyes talking “every day.”

After a visit to Columbus on March 31, 2023, Noland earned an Ohio State offer, one that seemed inevitable for months. He committed just eight days later on April 8, a date he set before he visited Ohio State, giving OSU its quarterback in the 2024 class for the second time.

Noland climbed nearly 100 spots in 247Sports’ composite rankings from the time Ohio State resumed recruiting the quarterback to the time the four-star gunslinger committed to the Buckeyes. He picked the Buckeyes among a group of finalists that also included Miami, Texas A&M, Clemson, Oregon, Alabama and Arkansas.

One of the biggest perks for Noland in committing to Ohio State was reuniting with his former high school teammate, tight end Jelani Thurman. 

“He’s sold me on Ohio State a lot,” Noland told Eleven Warriors of Thurman. “He loves it up there in Columbus. Jelani works very hard and is very smart. He does the right things on and off the field. We talk every day. That’s my guy. You never know. You might run into him and play with a guy like that again in college. It’s in God’s hands.”

High School Years

Noland became a star early in his career at Langston Hughes High school. As a freshman, he completed 77 of 124 passes (62.1%) for 1,348 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions in three starts (11 games). In his sophomore campaign, Noland notched 2,581 yards, 34 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 174 of 271 pass attempts (64.2%). That season, he led Langston Hughes to a 13-2 record and a Georgia 5A state runner-up finish.

As a junior, Noland helped lead Langston Hughes to an undefeated 15-0 record, completing 236 of 323 passes (73.1%) for 4,095 yards, 55 touchdowns and four interceptions. His 55 passing touchdowns that season rank second all-time in Georgia history for a single season ahead of both Trevor Lawrence (51) and Deshaun Watson (50), while the offense also set a state record for points scored (792). Noland was named the Georgia Region 5 6A Player of the Year and a MaxPreps Junior All-American for his performance.

In his senior year, Noland completed 149 of 247 pass attempts (60.3%) for 2,140 yards, 22 touchdowns and nine interceptions, as the team posted an 8-3 record and earned a spot in the playoffs.

Across his four seasons at Langston Hughes, Noland also ran the ball 111 times for 334 yards and six touchdowns.

Before becoming a dominant quarterback on the gridiron, Noland made a name for himself on the track, as he ran the 200-meter dash in a time of 24.19 seconds and a 400-meter time of 55.91 as a freshman. He clocked in at 11.89 seconds in the 100-meter dash as a sophomore.

Immediate Impact

One of five scholarship quarterbacks currently on the roster, Noland's first season at Ohio State will be one to master the playbook, develop as a passer and put some more muscle on his lean 6-foot-2, 192-pound frame.

Noland has the skill set to showcase his talent and make a name for himself in due time, but he currently seems to be at the bottom of the depth chart behind Will Howard, Devin Brown, Lincoln Kienholz and Sayin, who transferred into Ohio State in January after initially signing with Alabama. As such, Noland likely won't see the field much, if at all, as a freshman, though that could change if other quarterbacks transfer out of Ohio State following this spring.

Long-Term Impact

With Howard having only one remaining year of eligibility combined with the possibility of Brown and/or Kienholz entering the transfer portal, the 2025 starting quarterback job could end up being a competition between Noland and Sayin, two of the top quarterbacks in the 2024 class, both of whom enrolled early at Ohio State.

While Sayin appears to be ahead of Noland so far, especially after Sayin became the first freshman quarterback to lose his black stripe during the spring, Noland said before spring practice started that he isn't afraid of the competition, even with a player who was ranked ahead of him in his recruiting class.

“Julian pushes me, and I push him,” Noland told Eleven Warriors in early March. “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. 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.”

Noland could eventually overtake Sayin on the depth chart as the pair continue to develop both on and off the field, but it could be a tough climb given what has already taken place. Then again, competition brings out the best in some players, and it could do the same for Noland as his time continues in Columbus.

“Iron sharpens iron. 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.”

In the end, though, if Noland can't beat out Sayin on the depth chart, he might not get the opportunity to be Ohio State's starting quarterback until his senior season, if at all.

Player Comparison: Teddy Bridgewater

At 6-foot-3 and 196 pounds, Bridgewater had comparable size to Noland. During his career at Louisville, Bridgewater proved to be one of the best quarterbacks in college football, completing 303 of 427 passes (71%) for 3,970 yards, 31 touchdowns and four interceptions in his final season with the Cardinals.

Noland's accuracy and ability to distribute the ball to all areas of the field are two of his best traits. Pair that with Bridgewater's accuracy being one of his best traits throughout his college and his nine-year NFL career before he retired following this past season at the young age of 31, and Noland’s career would be a success if he can achieve similar heights as Bridgewater.

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