Ohio State’s Quarterback Depth Stands Out Among College Football’s Top Teams for 2024

By Dan Hope on May 10, 2024 at 8:35 am
Lincoln Kienholz, Air Noland, Julian Sayin, Will Howard and Devin Brown

In an offseason that featured more transfer quarterback movement across college football than ever before, Ohio State ended up with the deepest quarterback room in the country.

Going into the second transfer window of the offseason, the widespread expectation was that Ohio State would lose at least one of its five scholarship quarterbacks if not two or three. But all five of them stayed with the Buckeyes for the 2024 season, giving Ohio State a surplus of talented passers.

While the Buckeyes lost last year’s starting quarterback when Kyle McCord entered the transfer portal in December, Ohio State added three new quarterbacks to its roster this offseason in Kansas State transfer Will Howard and freshmen Julian Sayin (who transferred to OSU after briefly enrolling at Alabama) and Air Noland. Redshirt sophomore Devin Brown and redshirt freshman Lincoln Kienholz each stayed at OSU despite speculation that they could look elsewhere for a clearer path to a starting job.

As a result, Ohio State has five or more scholarship quarterbacks on its roster for the season for the first time since 2015, when the Buckeyes had six players listed as quarterbacks on scholarship: J.T. Barrett, Cardale Jones, Braxton Miller, Joe Burrow, Stephen Collier and Torrance Gibson. (Miller and Gibson both ultimately moved to wide receiver.)

No other team in college football has a quarterback depth chart with as much depth of talent as Ohio State does for the 2024 season.

Among the teams in ESPN’s preseason top 25 for the 2024 season, the only other one that currently has five scholarship quarterbacks on its roster happens to be Ohio State’s archrival, Michigan. The Wolverines’ scholarship quarterback count, however, includes a quarterback who was promoted from walk-on status in Davis Warren. The only quarterback on its roster who has ever started a collegiate game is seventh-year senior Jack Tuttle, and their highest-rated quarterback as a recruit (true freshman Jadyn Davis) finished below both Sayin and Noland in the 247Sports composite for his class.

Ohio State is one of just three teams in the country (Alabama, Florida State) whose quarterback roster includes a composite five-star prospect (Sayin) as well as a trio of four-stars (Brown, Kienholz and Noland), and that doesn’t even include the Buckeyes’ most likely starter in Howard, who started his college career at Kansas State as a three-star recruit but started 27 games at KSU over the past four seasons, leading the Wildcats to a Big 12 championship in 2022 and earning second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2023.

Ohio State’s 20 combined composite recruiting stars among its scholarship quarterbacks are the most of any team in ESPN’s preseason top 25. Texas is the only team in the country with two composite five-star quarterback recruits on its roster – Quinn Ewers and Arch Manning, who were both the No. 1 overall prospects in their respective recruiting classes – but the Longhorns have just three total scholarship quarterbacks.

Quarterback Roster Numbers for ESPN’s Preseason Top 25 Teams
Rk School Sch. QBs Combined Starts Combined Stars* Star Avg. Projected Starter
1 GEORGIA 4 16 16 4 CARSON BECK (14 starts, 4-star)
2 OHIO STATE 5 28 20 4 WILL HOWARD (27 starts, 3-star)
3 OREGON 4 54 15 3.75 DILLON GABRIEL (49 starts, 3-star)
4 TEXAS 3 22 14 4.67 QUINN EWERS (22 starts, 5-star)
5 NOTRE DAME 4 22 15 3.75 RILEY LEONARD (21 starts, 3-star)
6 OLE MISS 4 28 16 4 JAXSON DART (28 starts, 4-star)
7 MISSOURI 3 27 10 3.33 BRADY COOK (27 starts, 3-star)
8 PENN STATE 4 13 15 3.75 DREW ALLAR (13 starts, 5-star)
9 ALABAMA 4 13 17 4.25 JALEN MILROE (13 starts, 4-star)
10 UTAH 3 26 11 3.67 CAMERON RISING (25 starts, 4-star)
11 ARIZONA 3 9 10 3.33 NOAH FIFITA (9 starts, 3-star)
12 LSU 4 13 16 4 GARRETT NUSSMEIER (1 start, 4-star)
13 MICHIGAN 5 5 14** 2.8 ALEX ORJI (0 starts, 3-star)
14 OKLAHOMA 3 24 16*** 4 JACKSON ARNOLD (1 start, 5-star)
15 FLORIDA STATE 3 42 17*** 4.25 DJ UIAGALELEI (40 starts, 5-star)
16 TENNESSEE 2 1 9 4.5 NICO IAMALEAVA (1 start, 5-star)
17 OKLAHOMA STATE 4 39 13 3.25 ALAN BOWMAN (39 starts, 3-star)
18 N.C. STATE 3 40 9 3 GRAYSON MCCALL (40 starts, 2-star)
19 CLEMSON 2 14 9 4.5 CADE KLUBNIK (14 starts, 5-star)
20 KANSAS STATE 3 2 10 3.33 AVERY JOHNSON (2 starts, 4-star)
21 LOUISVILLE 3 13 16*** 4 TYLER SHOUGH (13 starts, 4-star)
22 KANSAS 4 21 9** 2.25 JALON DANIELS (21 starts, 3-star)
23 KENTUCKY 3 18 13 4.33 BROCK VANDAGRIFF (0 starts, 5-star)
24 MIAMI 4 70 9 2.25 CAM WARD (44 starts, unranked)
25 TEXAS A&M 4 12 16 4 CONNOR WEIGMAN (8 starts, 5-star)
*Recruiting stars are based on each quarterback’s 247Sports composite high school rating
**Michigan’s Davis Warren and Kansas’ Cole Ballard began their careers as unranked walk-ons before being placed on scholarship
***Oklahoma (Casey Thompson), Florida State (Trever Jackson) and Louisville (Harrison Bailey) all have walk-on quarterbacks who were four-star recruits coming out of high school

Within the Big Ten, a couple of teams actually have more scholarship quarterbacks than Ohio State. UCLA is up to seven scholarship quarterbacks for the 2024 season with the recent addition of Washington transfer Dermaricus Davis, while Maryland is set to have six scholarship QBs on its roster this fall. It’s unlikely OSU would trade any of its quarterbacks for any of their quarterbacks, though, as both of their rosters are filled with largely unproven passers with only one between them (UCLA’s Ethan Garbers) who was ranked as a top-200 prospect in his recruiting class.

Ohio State is the only team in the Big Ten with four quarterbacks on its roster who were either four- or five-star prospects in the composite rankings. Wisconsin and UCLA each have three.

Quarterback Roster Numbers for Big Ten Teams
School Scholarship QBs Combined Starts Combined Stars* Star Avg. Projected Starter
OHIO STATE 5 28 20 4 WILL HOWARD (27 starts, 3-star)
ILLINOIS 4 10 13 3.25 LUKE ALTMYER (10 starts, 4-star)
INDIANA 4 38 14 3.5 KURTIS ROURKE (33 starts, 3-star)
IOWA 4 29 13 3.25 CADE MCNAMARA (21 starts, 4-star)
MARYLAND 6 10 20 3.33 BILLY EDWARDS JR. (3 starts, 3-star)
MICHIGAN 5 5 14** 2.8 ALEX ORJI (0 starts, 3-star)
MICHIGAN STATE 4 42 10 2.5 AIDAN CHILES (0 starts, 4-star)
MINNESOTA 3 35 8 2.67 MAX BROSMER (35 starts, 2-star)
NEBRASKA 3 8 11 3.67 DYLAN RAIOLA (0 starts, 5-star)
NORTHWESTERN 5 36 16 3.2 MIKE WRIGHT (14 starts, 3-star)
OREGON 4 54 15 3.75 DILLON GABRIEL (49 starts, 3-star)
PENN STATE 4 13 15 3.75 DREW ALLAR (13 starts, 5-star)
PURDUE 4 17 14 3.5 HUDSON CARD (16 starts, 4-star)
RUTGERS 3 17 11 3.67 ATHAN KALIAKMANIS (17 starts, 4-star)
UCLA 7 8 24 3.43 ETHAN GARBERS (6 starts, 4-star)
USC 3 15 7 2.33 MILLER MOSS (1 start, 4-star)
WASHINGTON 2 40 7 3.5 WILL ROGERS (40 starts, 4-star)
WISCONSIN 4 31 15 3.75 TYLER VAN DYKE (31 starts, 4-star)
*Recruiting stars are based on each quarterback’s 247Sports composite high school rating
**Michigan’s Davis Warren and Kansas’ Cole Ballard began their careers as unranked walk-ons before being placed on scholarship

While every team in college football would love to have the depth that Ohio State has down to its fifth quarterback – particularly the nine top-25 teams and five Big Ten teams that have only two or three scholarship quarterbacks – the top of the quarterback depth chart is a bigger question mark for OSU than it is for some of college football’s other top teams. Howard’s passing accuracy during spring practice left plenty to be desired, and the only other quarterback on the roster who’s started a collegiate game is Brown, who went just 4-of-6 for 20 yards in the Cotton Bowl before his first career start was cut short by an ankle sprain.

Ohio State split reps among all five scholarship quarterbacks during spring practices, but it will need to be more intentional with how it divides reps in preseason camp to ensure its top two or three quarterbacks are ready to play when the season begins. While building and maintaining depth was the most important objective for the first half of the offseason, fortifying the top of the depth chart will be the top priority in August.

Having five quarterbacks with starting-caliber talent, though, is a rare luxury that will certainly give Ryan Day and Chip Kelly some peace of mind, particularly regarding their plans to use the quarterbacks more in the running game this season.

Ohio State had just three quarterbacks on scholarship during Justin Fields’ first season as a starter in 2019 and both of C.J. Stroud’s two starting seasons in 2021 and 2022, which made Day more conservative about running the quarterback and risking injury. The Buckeyes won’t necessarily throw caution to the wind this year, but their rare depth at quarterback will leave them less fearful of potential scenarios in which they need to play further down on the depth chart.

The top of the quarterback depth chart might ultimately dictate whether Ohio State can win a national championship this year, but the Buckeyes don’t need to look any further than their last national championship season 10 years ago to know how important quarterback depth can be. Jones began the season as Ohio State’s third-string quarterback but ended it leading Ohio State to a Big Ten Championship Game win over Wisconsin and a pair of wins over Alabama and Oregon in the first-ever College Football Playoff.

Depth could now become as important as it’s ever been in college football as the CFP expands to 12 teams this season, and Ohio State has the advantage of unparalleled depth among the top championship contenders at the quarterback position.

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