Sometimes it’s an early no-brainer, other times it just wears on you slowly.
Whether talking about the actual college recruitment or rankings rise of quarterback Air Noland, the latter applies. He had to wait his turn to get the green light to commit to Ohio State, which had No. 1 quarterback recruit Dylan Raiola on board before the surprise decommitment back in December. The Buckeye staff’s pivot to Noland following his undefeated state title run in 2022 launched his recruitment nationally and the more reserved Noland suddenly became a national recruit. His play, however, continued to turn heads into the all-important post-junior season offseason for quarterback recruits.
RELATED: Five-Star Countdown kicks off Rivals Rankings Week
Rivals Rankings Week
Sunday: Who should be No. 1?
Monday: Five-Star Countdown | Robinson receives fifth star
Tuesday: New Rivals250 revealed | Gorney’s thoughts | Ten on the cusp of five-star status
Wednesday: Offensive position rankings
Thursday: Defensive position rankings
Friday: State rankings
FINAL 2023 TEAM RANKINGS: Comprehensive (overall) ranking | High school/JUCO ranking | Transfer portal ranking
CLASS OF 2025 RANKINGS: Rivals250 | Team | Position | State
TRANSFER PORTAL: Latest news | Transfer portal player ranking | Transfer portal team ranking | Transfer Tracker | Message board
Judging, ranking and even evaluating quarterbacks is an inexact science, to say the least, but the numbers do tell their own story. Production and/or winning is attached to the position and few did it like Noland did last fall.
He led Fairburn (Ga.) Langston Hughes High School to a dominant and unblemished title run with a staggering 55 touchdown passes against four interceptions while completing more than 73 percent of his passes along the way.
The TD mark is more than the top two quarterbacks in the class – Raiola and Alabama commitment Julian Sayin – who threw for a combined 49 scores in 2022. Neither hit 3,000 yards through the air while Noland crossed the 4,000-yard threshold en route to the state title ring. The winning and production boxes are checked in sharpie.
Of course Noland is more unique than the numbers can project. The lefty has a silky smooth release above his 6-foot-3 frame, works the pocket with efficiency and can move outside of the pocket as needed in the modern sense. He can take what the defense gives him and play methodically underneath timing and accuracy before unloading to the third level with precision.
Noland isn’t physically overwhelming in any one way, perhaps contributing to a slower build-up to the fifth star, but he also doesn’t have a major or glaring physical weakness. As much as the QB evaluation game favors off-script athletic freaks, the other batch of passers ascending at the highest levels are polished point guards and ball distributors that make few mistakes. Just look at the top of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Perhaps the biggest box Noland checks is progress. He has plenty of experience at the varsity level, starting more than 30 games to date. Each season since his freshman campaign has seen more attempts, yardage and scoring, with three fewer interceptions between his sophomore and junior campaigns despite 50-plus more pass attempts. Some value completion percentage high among QB numbers and Noland’s progression is most evident there, making nearly a 10-point jump from 2021 to 2022 (64.2 to 73.1). He’s also added good weight to his frame and has the ease of knowing his college recruitment behind him heading into his final prep campaign.
Noland won’t win the NFL combine one day with his athleticism, but by the other major metrics with which quarterbacks are broken down, he has the chance to assimilate quickly at the collegiate level and become the next big-time talent at the position in Columbus. Not only could the five-star bump be viewed as overdue, but his name among the best passers in the class and his potential path to the top spot should not be underestimated going forward. No QB in America has had a better 12 months than Air Noland.