Though the fate of head coach Urban Meyer remains undecided, one change is certain: Zach Smith will not return as wide receivers coach for Ohio State.
Because of domestic violence allegations against his ex-wife, Smith was fired on July 23, and a replacement was named 10 days later.
Smith ran the receivers through his “Zone 6” mentality, making the group into a unit and bringing together the position as a collective whole.
The concept moved past Smith, with the receivers taking on the identity further, resulting in group interviews and creating a “Zone 6” Twitter account.
Though Smith leaves, the culture he started with “Zone 6” won’t necessarily be changed immediately.
Redshirt senior Parris Campbell could be in a position to lead the group with redshirt junior K.J. Hill, redshirt senior Johnnie Dixon, junior Binjimen Victor, junior Austin Mack and redshirt senior Terry McLaurin all returning to the team. The group will face added pressure this season given that it will be receiving passes from a quarterback who has never made a collegiate start.
This receiving group will still remain a collective unit that does not rely on individual standouts, despite a change in coach. Campbell, Hill, Dixon, Victor, Mack and McLaurin combined for more than 2,600 receiving yards and 29 touchdown receptions last season, but no receiver broke 600 yards through the air. Dixon led the team with eight receiving touchdowns, but was eighth on the team in receptions.
This balance makes the Ohio State receiving corps a unit by nature, and makes each of them potential tools for redshirt sophomore quarterback Dwayne Haskins to use, and that won’t go away with Smith’s firing.
The new wide receivers coach should bring a lot of the same coaching mentalities that Smith leaves behind having coached under him.
Brian Hartline was named the interim wide receivers coach for the season after Smith’s firing following a year as a quality control coach, and looks to bring his NFL experience to the position.
Hartline, a former Ohio State receiver who helped the 2008 team reach the national championship, spent six years with the Miami Dolphins, breaking 1,000 receiving yards in back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013 before ending his professional career with the Cleveland Browns in 2015.
Hartline will be coaching one of the most experienced groups Ohio State has had in recent memory, with every core member of the group returning from last year as, mostly, juniors and seniors.
Smith leaves with a tarnished reputation, but Hartline has a chance to revitalize this group of wide receivers, and help an inexperienced Haskins find success.