Could 5-star freshman quarterback Julian Sayin play the role of Tua Tagovailoa for Ohio State in 2024?

On3 imageby:Jesse Simonton04/12/24


Ohio State already had four scholarship quarterbacks on the roster when Ryan Day made the aggressive move in late January to pluck 5-star Alabama signee Julian Sayin from the transfer portal

The Buckeyes’ head coach embraced the notion that stockpiling talent wins in the end, and the competition for snaps will play out on the field. 

Day’s shrewd bet looks even smarter less than three months later, as Sayin, the top-ranked quarterback in the 2024 class, has immediately impressed Buckeyes players and coaches. The 6-1, 215-pound freshman has already lost his black stripe and is pushing his way up the depth chart.

“He’s in the mix,” Day said on Sayin being in contention for Ohio State’s starting quarterback job. 

“He’s been in there competing. He’s making plays – the guys know. A lot of times with the black stripe [removal] … it’s players [making the call], they know. They see it. Nine practices in you could see he was making a lot of throws in big spots, even against the ones.

“So, the play speaks for itself. Usually when you get your black stripe off it’s because you’ve earned the respect of the team. And I think he’s done that.”

How Julian Sayin could get on the field for Ohio State in 2024

The Buckeyes brought in Will Howard this offseason, too, and the expectation is that the Kansas State transfer will be the team’s starter in 2024. 

That remains the likeliest outcome, and after Saturday’s Scarlet & Gray Game, Ohio State’s QB room will likely shrink to three or four following a transfer or two. 

Maybe it’s Devin Brown or Lincoln Kienholz. It could be fellow 5-star freshman Air Noland.

But Julian Sayin isn’t going anywhere, and the nation’s No. 8 overall prospect could push for playing time this fall if he continues to have a strong offseason. 

Since he arrived in Columbus, Sayin has generated buzz with his football IQ and arm talent. His decision-making has been lauded, with Day and others effusive in their praise for the 5-star freshman. 

Sayin still needs to fill out physically, but this is not manufactured buzz around his potential: They’re getting him up to speed as fast as possible because there’s a chance he’s needed in 2024.

Ohio State is reintroducing the QB-run game as a key element to its offense this fall. The Buckeyes still have some OL concerns, but they’re loaded at tailback and Howard (who has 19 career rushing touchdowns, and nearly 1,000 rushing yards) is a great fit for that role. 

But what if Howard gets dinged up against Oregon or Penn State? What if he proves not to be an upgrade over the inconsistent play the Buckeyes got out of quarterback Kyle McCord last season?

That’s where Sayin comes in. 

Day said Wednesday, “how fast he gets on the field will be up to him,” so if Sayin can continue to turn heads — starting in Saturday’s spring game and then throughout the summer — and truly push for the backup job, then he’ll be positioned to step in if Howard gets hurt or struggles. 

Think 2017 Tua Tagovailoa.

Seven years ago, Tagovailoa was a 5-star freshman at Alabama drawing rave reviews in spring practice. He was behind veteran Jalen Hurts, but Tagovailoa saw action in eight games that season before Nick Saban turned to the budding star in the national championship game to beat Georgia.

Sayin could have a similar destiny for Ohio State this fall.

The Buckeyes are likely to ride the veteran Howard for most of the season, but they might have this “breaks glass in case of emergency” option to bust out against the likes of Georgia or Texas in the College Football Playoff. 

“Julian’s been competing his tail off and he’ll continue to do that and he’s got a very bright future. And he’s gonna have a really good summer,” Day said. 

“It’s just a mindset for him that he needs to be ready to go, you know, play at Oregon, ready to go play at Penn State, he’s got to be ready to go play against The Team Up North, he’s got to be ready to play for the Big Ten [title] and the national championship, and that’s in his mind because you know the last time the national championship was won we were on quarterback three.”

Ohio State is all-in on the 2024 season. The Buckeyes don’t want to rely on a freshman quarterback, but if Julian Sayin is as good as advertised, they may not have a choice.