Brian Hartline has earned a full-time gig at Ohio State.
That’s probably not a surprise, and it’s perhaps just a matter of protocol at this point. But the Buckeyes need to remove that interim tag for a number of reasons, starting with the message it sends about the future of the wide receivers unit.
Hartline has earned it. There aren’t many former NFL wide receivers who would’ve put in the dirty work that he did over the last year or so. He came to Ohio State wanting to learn how to become a coach, working at his alma mater as a quality control coach alongside Zach Smith to illustrate his commitment to the endeavor.
Since taking over as the receivers coach, Hartline has helped develop the country’s best receiving unit and watched the Buckeyes become one of the nation’s most prolific passing offenses, an idea that was almost laughable before this season. Yes, a hefty portion of the credit for that goes to Dwayne Haskins, but to dismiss the growth from Ohio State’s receiving unit on the field would be shortsighted.
“He’s been great,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said. “He’s learning on the run still. Doing some great things. And one thing about our job, it’s very valuation-friendly. They’re playing very well.”
The Buckeyes catch the ball better. They run routes better. They get open more. It’s a talented room full of receivers that continue to grow and improve every week.
And next season it’s almost a certainty that four major pieces of that room will be gone. If Ohio State wants to build on what Hartline has built on the recruiting front and what he’s building inside of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, it should remove that interim tag soon.
Meyer knows that, too.
Look, it’s been a weird year on the recruiting trail for Ohio State. Sunday’s sudden decommitment by long-time running back pledge Sampson James is the latest bit of evidence to back up that claim, but it’s hardly the first.
There are two new coaches in the back half of the Buckeyes defense, and it’s taken both Alex Grinch and Taver Johnson time to get up to speed on the recruiting front. Ohio State has had to deal with rumors around the long-term status of Ryan Day, Greg Schiano and Kevin Wilson since they arrived in Columbus, and that was before Day emerged as one of the coaching candidates in America.
Larry Johnson has been a steady recruiting force, but Ohio State has been forced to squash rumors of his pending retirement almost as often as he’s produced Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year defensive linemen.
Then there are the situations for oft-maligned linebackers coach Bill Davis and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa. Though that duo seems secure in their respective roles, the Buckeyes should be recruiting better at each position.
Plus the Zach Smith dismissal and the subsequent Urban Meyer dramatics that brought most of the recruiting momentum that had been gained during a busy summer to a grinding halt.
So, it’s been an odd recruiting cycle to this point.
But Hartline’s work with the 2019 class has been spectacular, and Ohio State isn’t likely to risk upsetting things by forcing the incoming wideouts to adjust to a third receivers coach in five months. They also know they’ll be hardpressed to find a young coach — Hartline will turn 32 in November — with the NFL credentials and experience he has.
Through all of those factors, the Buckeyes held on to 5-star receiver Garrett Wilson, who has become the vocal leader of the now 14-person recruiting class of 2019. They also found a way to bring land 4-star target Jameson Williams, a player heavily recruited by Smith, despite the turmoil in late July and August.
Now, they’re weeks away from learning if they’ve done enough to land 4-star athlete Wandale Robinson, one of the country’s most electric pass catchers and a player that they had zero chance to land when August began.
Though Ryan Day gets an assist for helping Ohio State hold onto Wilson, the reason Williams and maybe Robinson are heading to Columbus? Interim wide receivers coach Brian Hartline.
Meyer knew Hartline had the ability to be a difference maker on his coaching staff and said as much as in July when asked about him during Big Ten Media Days.
“He’s got potential to be an excellent coach,” Meyer said. “[He]is a wonderful guy and works his tail off. Brian Hartline is a very important part of our staff.”
If you put all those things together, it’s clearly time to lose the label and let everybody know Brian Hartline is going to be the man in charge of Zone 6 for the foreseeable future.