Sayin loses black stripe ahead of spring game

COLUMBUS — A second freshman has lost his black stripe as Ohio State football continues to work its way through spring practice, and this one may be the most important to its future.

Julian Sayin was the first place the Buckeyes pivoted to when its 2024 recruiting class lost Dylan Raiola to a decommitment. But the five-star quarterback made it clear he wasn’t interested in backing off from his Alabama commitment.

Then Nick Saban retired as Alabama’s coach just weeks after Sayin enrolled early, opening a window for OSU to make a second run at him.

Now Sayin is a Buckeye and with the Spring Game set for Saturday, that sentiment became official after losing his black stripe — the coaches’ acknowledgment that a player is an “official Buckeye” — while making a statement in the process.

Ohio State is locked into a quarterback battle for its 2024 season where the top two options are fifth-year senior Will Howard and Devin Brown, who will be NFL Draft eligible next spring. Regardless of the winner, there’s a good chance OSU could be back in this position next season as two five-stars battle it out to be the future of the position.

Air Noland is who OSU ended up with on Signing Day, and he too has early enrolled. But Sayin’s play through 13 practices mixed with Jeremiah Smith, the nation’s top-ranked high school receiver, losing their stripes this spring as true freshmen indicates who might already be leading that race.

The two are joined by transfers Caleb Downs, Quinshon Judkins, Seth McLaughlin, Will Kacmarek and Howard as newcomers to lose their stripes.

“Very strong-willed,” Downs said of his first impression of Sayin. “You can see the intensity that he goes about his business with. Very focused person.”

The last time Ohio State brought in two highly-rated quarterbacks at the same time in 2020, it made sure C.J. Stroud and Jack Miller lost their stripes at the same time. That same approach isn’t being applied here, as one player is already making a move.

The first major checkpoint has been made in deciding the next long-term starting quarterback in Columbus. Now the ball is in the court of Noland, the other five-star in the room, to quickly respond.