The firing of Ohio State wide receiver’s coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Smith has left a void on head coach Urban Meyer’s coaching staff that needs to be filled in short order, with the season’s first game on Sept. 1.
Smith was fired following a domestic violence civil protection order filed by his ex-wife. According to the police report from an incident in 2009 filed by the department in Gainesville, Florida, he “grabbed the victim by the t-shirt, picked her up and threw her into the bedroom wall.”
While Meyer did not confirm Smith’s predecessor at the 2018 Big Ten Media Days, offensive quality control coach Brian Hartline appears to be one of the top candidates for the position.
“That decision will be made later in the week,” Meyer said. “Any speculation up to that point is certainly that.”
An ex-Buckeye wide receiver from 2006 to 2008, Hartline joined Meyer’s staff last season, and while no decision has been made, Meyer said that he has loved what Hartline brought to the team in his current position.
“He’s got potential to be an excellent coach,” Meyer said. “[He is a] wonderful guy who works his tail off, so Brian Hartline is a very important part of our staff.”
Whoever takes over in place of Smith will be handed a receiving core consisting of redshirt senior Johnnie Dixon, senior Terry McLaurin, juniors Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor, as well as redshirt senior H-back Parris Campbell and junior H-back K.J. Hill.
Campbell said he had a “devastating” reaction to Smith’s firing, and that with it being this close to the season made it even harder. But Campbell said he’d stand by Meyer’s new hire no matter what, and if that ends up being Hartline, he would welcome that.
“He brings something different to the table just because he has experience at the next level,” Campbell said. “He’s been with us for two years now, and he’s developed a relationship with all of the guys in the room, guys in the room, we love him.”
Hartline played in the NFL for seven seasons on both the Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns, bringing in 344 career receptions for 4,766 yards and 14 touchdowns. That professional experience is something Meyer said helps him succeed as a coach.
“The NFL is instant credibility, especially for a guy that’s a made player,” Meyer said. “The reason he survived nine years, he outworked everybody, it wasn’t because he was a 4.2 40 [yard dash] guy or some specimen athletically, so I have a lot of respect for him, and so do our players.”
Meyer said he should have a decision within the week, and that he will be looking at many aspects for selecting Smith’s replacement, including scouting — an area in which Hartline lacks experience.
“I weigh everything,” Meyer said. “Job No. 1 is not to coach your receivers, it would be to bring in quality student-athletes. That’s the No. 1 job of a position coach in college at Ohio State.”