The summer offseason is in full swing, and Lettermen Row is trying to survive it with our annual Position Week breakdowns. By the time all nine units at Ohio State have been covered, training camp and media days will nearly have arrived â€” and the return of football in the Horseshoe will be just around the corner. Letâ€™s roll right along by turning the attention to the wide receivers and position coach Brian Hartline for the Buckeyes.
LAKE TRAVIS, Texas — The playing days for Brian Hartline aren’tÂ that far in the rearview mirror.
But a half-dozen years might as well be a lifetime ago for the next wave of wide receivers. And they aren’t signing up to play for him at Ohio State because they remember the game-breaking speed, the golf-putt touchdown celebration or the size of his NFL contracts.
The fact that Hartline can still get on the field and demonstrate pro-ready routes is obviously a plus for the Buckeyes and the nation’s best talents at the position. But the reality is Hartline’s reputation for preparing guys for the NFL is quickly surpassing the fact that he got there himself.
“Nah, honestly I really can’t remember it,” Del Valle (Texas) wideout Braylon James told Lettermen Row. “I don’t remember anything about his NFL career, but I’ve been doing a little bit of research. I can’t really say too much about his career.
“But I know he’s been at Ohio State for a minute now. I know he definitely has had a long line of receivers he’s coached and stuff like that. As far as looking at the NFL production and being able to learn from him, that’s promised with Hartline. That was the one thing I really knew.”
That Hartline doesn’t even need to sell his bonafides with the Miami Dolphins or Cleveland Browns is a huge bonus for the Buckeyes. And it’s a reminder of just how smooth the transition has been for the Ohio State alum as a full-time staffer — particularly since his hire was initially greeted with at least a touch of skepticism about his recruiting ability and if he even really wanted to coach after his productive NFL career.
Hartline has now been out of the league almost as long as he was in it. And that final season before his retirement came when Caleb Burton was just a fifth-grader, not a five-star.Â So, the appeal for Burton to commit to the Buckeyes certainly didn’t come because of his fond memories watching Hartline actually use the technique he teaches now.
“He can still get on the field and show you how to do it,” Burton said. “I love it. I would get on Zoom meetings and see practice drills they were doing, and it was really, really good to see it.
“But I really think his vibe, any recruit would like that. His history with wide receivers, he played in the league so he has experience, he can give you good advice. And now you can just see the Ohio State receivers what they’re doing already, it all plays a big part. He’s not like every other wide receivers coach, that’s for sure.”
The results clearly set Brian Hartline apart as well, and his impact since taking over the position on a permanent basis is undeniable.
Terry McLaurin has catapulted to stardom in Washington. Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson are returning as the top-two targets in the country. The Buckeyes have stacked up record-breaking recruiting classes at wide receiver and are making it seem routine to land five-star signees on an annual basis.
Hartline has often bristled at the good-recruiterÂ tag, largely because it suggests that he might be doing something other than just being himself, building strong relationships and effectively communicating with players. And at this point, it probably is unfair since he’s proven in a hurry that he’s simply a good coach — and more than just a former NFL wide receiver.
“Exactly, that’s it,” James said. “You can look at the kind of guys he’s producing, and I just looked at the rankings where he had two receivers projected as No. 1 and 2 in the nation. When you have that from the same school, that shows you something.
“That’s really huge.”
Considering how relatively recently his playing career ended, that’s an even bigger deal for the Buckeyes.
Brian Hartline is just getting started.