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Opinion: Hartline has made immediate impact as Ohio State wide receivers coach

Wide receivers coach Brian Hartline talks with the players on the bench in the first half of the 2019 Spring Game on April 13. Gray beat Scarlet 35-17. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

To say that Brian Hartline took over as Ohio State wide receivers coach amid turmoil would be an understatement.

Hartline was named the interim wide receivers coach following the firing of his predecessor Zach Smith, leading to an eventual three-game suspension of former head coach Urban Meyer.

Since then, Hartline’s inherited wide receivers were an integral part of a record-setting Ohio State passing offense in 2018, and the six receiver commits he recruited since are all top 110 overall prospects.

Having caught 90 passes as a Buckeye wide receiver from 2006-2008 in his own right, Hartline had an immediate impact on the Ohio State receiving corps after replacing Smith in July of last year. 

Hartline guided the group to a combined 4,319 yards, 85 percent of the team’s total yards through the air this past season. Take away completions to all other players outside the position group, and the Buckeyes still set the school single-season team passing yards record.

In college coaching, on-field performance is only part of the battle. Recruiting is another way coaches are judged, and in his first NCAA job, Hartline is amassing a talented haul in his first full class.

After Ohio State signed 2019’s No. 1 receiver  Garrett Wilson, Hartline has followed suit with a 2020 class that includes one five-star and three four-star commitments at wide receiver. 

Pennsylvania five-star commit Julian Fleming, the nation’s No. 1 player at the position, could be the crown jewel. He ran a 4.45 second 40-yard dash at the Opening Finals last week, and with a 6-foot-2 frame, he possesses the athleticism required to compete in Columbus.

The most recent addition to Hartline’s class is four-star Mookie Cooper, Missouri’s No. 2 overall prospect. Cooper fits the mold of a slot receiver at 5-foot-8.

These players combined with four-stars Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Gee Scott, Jr. form the nation’s highest-rated receiving haul, per 247Sports.

All four are ranked in the top 100 prospects overall, and top 20 at wide receiver.

Hartline’s even dipped his hand into the 2021 class, securing a verbal pledge from four-star Ohio receiver Jayden Ballard. Ballard is rated No. 110 overall and No. 20 at receiver.

It’s also worth noting that redshirt senior receiver K.J. Hill could have played professionally after back-to-back seasons trailing Parris Campbell for the team lead in receiving yards, but chose to return for one more year in Hartline’s room. While it doesn’t appear on any recruiting rankings, it’s another acquisition by Hartline.

With Hill on hand for this season and talent recruited for the future, Hartline may have established the Ohio State receiver corps for long-term success.

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