'This is the pinnacle of the ladder.' OSU receivers coach Brian Hartline revels in role
When an assistant coach at Ohio State is regarded as a rising star in the profession, questions about his future inevitably follow.
Former Buckeye and NFL wide receiver Brian Hartline coaches that position at Ohio State. His unit almost certainly has the top trio of receivers in the country with Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
All three could surpass 1,000 receiving yards this season. Young players behind them – Emeka Egbuka, Marvin Harrison Jr., Julian Fleming and Jayden Ballard – are poised to emerge when given the chance.
Hartline, who took over as receivers coach when Zach Smith was fired in 2018, revels in the success of his unit and that he’s in charge of it.
“I pinch myself,” he said Tuesday. “I can't believe I'm the receiver coach at Ohio State. That's pretty surreal to me more times than you probably think. I don't take it for granted.”
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Hartline’s name is sure to appear when the offseason cycle of coaching promotions kicks in around the country. But when he was asked about moving up the coaching ladder, he sounded like someone content where he is.
“This is the pinnacle of the ladder,” he said. “I don't need the satisfaction of calling plays or whatever. I don't know what that ladder is. But to me, I'm at the pinnacle of the ladder.”
Hartline said he enjoys following the speculation and gossip about other coaching hires. He’s not so keen on it regarding him.
“All I know is I love Ohio State,” he said. “My wife’s from here. I love my house. It’d be really hard to leave. I don’t think that’s really in the books.
“I don’t think I could do that. Never say never, but it chokes me up now. I couldn’t even imagine going in there and looking at Marvin and Emeka and Jayden and telling them I’m not going to be here. Low, low chance.”
Those backups have earned raves for their work in practice. Their chances in games have been limited. Hartline said discussion about giving them more reps in games is under continual discussion.
The issue is that he doesn’t want to take Olave, Wilson and Smith-Njigba off the field.
“Being a former player and knowing where I was as a junior and senior and the work I put in, I didn't want to come off the field,” Hartline said. “If people can see perspective on that sometimes, like one day it's going to be your opportunity and let me know what you think you when you get that spot. I'm going to ask you, ‘Do you want me to take you off the field so maybe a younger guy can play?’
“If I'm pulling a player off the field, you have to be able to come in and compete at that exact same level (or) I'm doing a disservice to the O-line, running back and quarterback.”
But Hartline is confident that the backups will be ready when they're needed. Olave will go to the NFL next year with Wilson almost certainly joining him.
“They’re doing a great job,” Hartline said of the young receivers. “I hope they understand that there’s a bigger picture to it all, and I think they do. The group is awesome and so much fun to coach. I can’t emphasize that enough.”