Hartline all-in on opportunity at OSU

Tim May
Ohio State interim receivers coach Brian Hartline throws a ball at a fall practice at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The young coach now leads one of the most experienced, productive units on the team. [Adam Cairns/Dispatch]

Brian Hartline knows he gained a massive career break in late July when head coach Urban Meyer named him to replace fired Ohio State receivers coach Zach Smith. Hartline wakes up every day bound to prove he deserves it.

“We kind of earn our badges and earn our titles daily,” Hartline said. “Whether you’re a player or a coach, I think you’re always trying to justify your position, or trying to justify a greater position.

“I always had that approach as a player. I think these guys have that approach as players.”

It’s not as though Hartline came to the post without credentials, however. He is a former Ohio State receiver and played in the NFL for seven years. And he was a program assistant with the Buckeyes last year, “trying to pick everyone’s brain. In reality, I was already kind of game-planning for what-ifs. Not here, but anywhere.”

Three months into it as a full-timer — even though he still has an “interim” tag — he has proved he belongs.

“He has been great,” Meyer said of Hartline a couple of weeks ago.

Hartline knows he inherited the deepest and most experienced group on the team. The receiver corps is led by fifth-year seniors Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin and Johnnie Dixon, all of whom were voted captains. The receivers not only have been the primary targets for Dwayne Haskins Jr. in what is shaping up as the greatest passing season in Ohio State history, they also are excellent blockers and are accountable off the field.

Again, as a 31-year-old in his second year of coaching, Hartline got the break of a lifetime.

“In the end, I’m only as good as the people in the room,” Hartline said. “As much as I want to come in and try to help, and enhance, and make things tweaked or this and that, it’s only upon the acceptance of these older (players).

“So for their ability to just continue to pick my brain, and want to grow, the thirstiness of wanting to get better … that’s why we’ve had some improvements. … It’s been something that’s been very, very humbling.”

The feeling is mutual, Campbell said earlier in the season, because the receivers know they are being coached by someone who has been there, done that.

“Since he’s been at OSU, since he’s done what I’ve done, if he wants me to do something, if he tells me something that I need to do, he can go on the field and actually show me and I can see what it looks like,” Campbell said. “So it’s great. … It’s easy to listen to a guy like that.”

Being a full-time coach brings the demands of recruiting, which Hartline said he has embraced, and the understanding and support of his wife, Kara, which he said she has given. Meyer demands constant effort in all phases of the job, and Hartline indicated his mind is always working in that regard.

“I don’t take it for granted,” Hartline said. “When I go home at night I’m always thinking about how I can get these guys better — constantly. And on my way in I’m always making sure I perform at the highest level, because the things I do have ramifications throughout the week.

“I just have that approach. I’m not saying that’s correct. I’m just saying I value every time I have with them, and everything I say isn’t said lightly. That’s how I would want to be coached, and I try to then relay that to these guys.”


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