Brian Hartline is back with the Ohio State football team, and a part of him wishes it were in his former role, receiver, rather than the quality-control coaching spot he is in now.
It’s not just that Hartline longs for the glory of his playing days. Instead, he would have relished the chance to play for the current coaching staff, led by three-time national champion coach Urban Meyer. The staff also includes offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, the former Indiana coach, former NFL quarterbacks coach Ryan Day, receivers coach Zach Smith and performance chief Mickey Marotti, among others.
“I would love to see what this staff could have gotten out of me,” said Hartline, who played under Jim Tressel in the mid-2000s before going on to a seven-year NFL career. “Not that they didn’t when I was here, but it’s just different.”
He’s gotten to go behind the curtain to see how a Meyer-run program operates.
“As a football junkie, it’s a huge opportunity and huge blessing, and I can’t be grateful enough,” Hartline said. “It’s been awesome. The amount I’ve learned in the last three months has been very beneficial.”
For example, Hartline said, every assistant has his own niche and own abilities, but it is Meyer who keeps things together.
“His ability to establish culture and hold to that culture and not waver … is something that’s very special. I never realized how much it played” into Ohio State’s success, Hartline said. “It’s hard to put into words, but you have to be in it, you have to be behind the curtain to understand.”
Hartline was a fourth-round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2009, and his six seasons there included two 1,000-yard seasons, in 2012 and ’13. He played for the Cleveland Browns in 2015, then stepped away from the league last August.
“It wasn’t hard, it was a choice,” Hartline said. “I left Cleveland and I said to myself I would only play if I still loved it, and I’d only want to play for somebody who is potentially a contender, and if it’s not those I’m not doing it.”
Those opportunities did not present themselves.
“I stepped away hoping the passion would come back; it did not,” Hartline said. “Now I’m here and I love it.”
Though he thought he was going to take a year off from football, he helped the Buckeyes as a scout-team player during practices for the College Football Playoff last year, as allowed by the NCAA. He said he quickly got “hooked” working with young players. When Meyer presented the opportunity to join the staff, “that’s something you can’t just shrug at. It’s been awesome.”
As the offensive quality control coach, “anything they need (analyzed) from the offensive side of the ball,” is his responsibility, Hartline said. “But every time we meet I’m sitting with the receivers,” he added.
Hartline provided a hint of what he thinks is to come this season in the first year with Wilson at the head of the offense trying to rekindle a credible passing game to go with its running attack.
“Coach Wilson has done an incredible job of taking an offense, enhancing it and bringing some things that he has done in the past and applying it to coach Meyer’s offense. Dude’s got some skill in calling plays,” Hartline said. “It’s been a lot of fun, and just to say we’re excited would be an understatement.”