Any way one looks at it, Brian Hartline is in a unique position.
Not only is the 36-year-old becoming Ohio State’s offensive coordinator after just six years of coaching, he also inherited a situation brimming with both potential and expectations.
Will they be among the highest-scoring teams in the nation again after finishing second last year at 44.2 points per game?
Can they approach 500 yards a game again?
Will the passing game again approach No. 2 in the nation in efficiency despite the loss of C.J. Stroud to the NFL?
Maybe most importantly, can the Buckeyes end their two-game losing streak to Michigan, get back to the top of the Big Ten and try to finish the job they started last year when they had defending national champion Georgia on the ropes in a College Football Playoff semifinal?
“Frankly, we have not accomplished our goals the last few years, so that’s easy to identify,” Hartline said. “We’ve got to do that, and we’ve got to play our part.”
Without Stroud and three starters on the offensive line, the Buckeyes have questions, but multiple talented, experienced players return at receiver and running back ready to take the ball from whoever is the new quarterback.
So their new offensive coordinator is spending the spring just moving forward and observing while taking notes and advice.
“We have the best (offensive coordinator) in college football like 30 feet from me,” he said while gesturing toward head coach Ryan Day. “But I think that I’ve always talked with the guys I know, just getting nuggets here and there. Thoughts. All those kinds of things. And I’m looking forward to it. A lot of guys have been awesome, but I’ve always expanded. It’s not more about being offensive coordinator than the balancing of time and reaching people and suggestions than anything else.”
Hartline might not be out to reinvent the wheel when it comes to the Ohio State offense, but he did reveal he has some specific goals for the season.
“I think that there’s always a level of consistency that you can always continue to chase,” he said. “I think that’s one thing, and we have our ways of doing that.”
He then made reference to the Buckeyes’ scoring unit being able to produce fireworks much of the season but bog down in big games, such as the last two Michigan games and in a loss to Oregon in 2021.
“At times the last couple of years probably felt maybe there was a lull here and there, so we’re trying to eliminate that. How to do that? That is what we’re diving into. So that is one thing that we are looking to enhance,” he said.
He also wants to see the Buckeyes get better at biting off big chunks of yardage at a time. A year ago, they ranked third in the country in offensive success rate, which measures the percentage of plays a team scores or makes progress toward a first down. But they ranked No. 66 out of 131 Division I FBS teams in explosiveness, which is determined by percentage of total available yards gained on a particular play.
“Probably the amount of explosive plays is something we want (to improve on),” Hartline said. “We have explosive players, we have explosive ideas, but the execution of explosive plays can be enhanced.
“But I think at the end of the day, we’ve been very productive, but I do have a pride that there’s still more meat on that bone.”
Once a new offensive line is established and a starting quarterback chosen, Hartline should have no shortage of choices when he has to decide what to feature in the fall, but he said he won’t have any trouble narrowing them down, either.
“I’m not really the type to just draw thousands of plays,” he said. “That’s just not where I’m at with how my brain works. The things we do, I want to do it at a very, very high level and with extreme efficiency, and provide an advantage to the players as much as possible based on the plays.”