The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the future for wide receivers coach Brian Hartline? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.
With the way Brian Hartline’s Star is rising in the coaching world how long can we realistically expect him to be around for?
— Charles Kangas (@KANGASMAN_FS) May 15, 2019
Brian Hartline hasn’t even been a full-time coach for a calendar year, and already it’s safe to call him one of the most important staff members at Ohio State.
So much for the concerns about his transition to the sideline or his willingness to embrace recruiting, right? Hartline has left no doubt since accepting the interim tag to lead the wide receivers last summer about his potential in the profession — which even he seemed to have initial doubts about when plotting his future.
Obviously Hartline can’t take all the credit for the way Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon and Terry McLaurin exploded a year ago, although each of them has been quick to point to his impact in shaping their final seasons with the program. It certainly was a benefit for Hartline that he inherited three veterans with no shortage of athleticism, experience and work ethic. But the foundation for a successful partnership had already been laid when Hartline decided to come back to Ohio State in a behind-the-scenes role, which both sold him on the career path as a coach and established his credibility as a teacher.
Not all former NFL players are capable of passing on their wisdom, so it was fair to wonder at first about how Hartline would handle that responsibility. But it’s been clear from the start how invested he is in working with the Buckeyes, and he’s just as obviously been getting results with the way he communicates the technique, mindset and playbook to his wideouts.
Beyond that, though, the recruiting trail can be a grind. But Hartline has also emerged as a true ace on the staff for Ryan Day in that department, jetting all over the country and effectively seeing a line form with the nation’s top targets jumping at the chance to play for him at Ohio State. The tradition of the program is a big part of the draw and always will be, of course. But it would be foolish to ignore the success he’s having when it comes to the guys who signed last year or the commits already in the fold this cycle.
So, what does all that mean for his future? For starters, Hartline is probably going to be due for a significant raise if this trend continues in Year Two. Even if he doesn’t necessarily need the money, it’s almost unthinkable that Hartline would the lowest-paid member of the coaching staff this season. If the Buckeyes don’t address that themselves, every other powerhouse program in the country will be making an offer to him to at least try to test his loyalty and tempt him away from his alma mater.
That might also become the case with NFL teams given Hartline’s productive career at that level. The Buckeyes have already seen this play out before when Mike Vrabel started proving his chops with the program, catching the attention at the next level and eventually becoming a head coach with the Tennessee Titans. It’s far too early to be making any sorts of projections about Hartline’s trajectory after just one season, but at some point he figures to be ready for a different title and more responsibility — and Ohio State will have to be prepared for that possibility.
Eventually guys like Kevin Wilson and Mike Yurcich will get chances to move on as well, and maybe the progression for Hartline will happen naturally with the Buckeyes on the offensive staff. Who knows? He might even just be content to establish himself as the best position coach in the country like Larry Johnson has on the defensive line, embracing that opportunity in a comfortable situation at a school he’s loved for years.
That makes pinning an exact timeline almost impossible with just one year of data to work with right now. But the fact that it’s even a question is yet another reminder of just how successful that first season was for Brian Hartline.
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