Ohio State football: How Brian Hartline is approaching new role

COLUMBUS — If Brian Hartline is impressed with himself for being named offensive coordinator at his alma mater at the age of 36, he did not let it show.

“It does not feel different,” he said in his first interview after being promoted. “I get to speak (to the media) more, so just dynamics changed a little bit, but it’s exciting.”

The former Ohio State receiver has been a rising star in the coaching business since ascending to the role of full-time receivers coach in 2019. He owes that to his success both in developing the players in his room and in recruiting elite prospects to join it, but he is in for a new challenge this season.

Not only will he be overseeing the receivers, will he be charged with maintaining a well-oiled offensive machine that has set and re-set many school scoring and yardage records over the past decade, first under head coach Urban Meyer and now Ryan Day.

“At the end of the day, you have an allocation of time, so how do you allocate that time?” Hartline said. “You have a list of plays and schemes in which you find an ‘A’ play versus a ‘B’ play and a ‘C’ play, and that (‘A’ play) becomes probably more your identity. That’s probably your responsibility.”

Beyond that, he wants to make sure the rest of the staff is in position to contribute at top capacity.

“I think that being able to enhance the people around you,” Hartline said. “My job as a receiver coach is to get the best out of the receivers. My job as an offensive coordinator is to maximize each guy in that room, each coach in that room to what they’re capable of. So that doesn’t change, I think, in the grand scheme, but maybe the dynamics within the groups maybe are a little different.”

When the move was announced, no one expressed any belief the Ohio State offense would take on a different look, and Hartline seemed to remove any doubt when he said he never looked to take anything schematic with him from any of his previous coaches, be it in college of the NFL.

With the Ohio State offense that has developed from the minds of Meyer and Day still in place, the biggest challenge could be mostly mechanical.

Specifically: How is the game plan put together during the week, and how does Hartline adjust to calling plays on game day if that role ultimately falls to him?

“I think that coach Day has always done it at an elite level,” Hartline said. “We’ve always produced offensively at elite level, but the support staff I have around me really empowers me. So my confidence comes from having them, and so I’d be very confident.”

Day also expressed confidence in Hartline’s readiness for a larger workload, one that could surpass his predecessor Kevin Wilson’s if Day follows through with plans to give up calling the plays himself on game day.

“His knowledge of offensive football is excellent, and now he’s got an opportunity to take that next step in his progression,” Day said of Hartline. “I think that’s natural for him, but I also feel comfortable because I think we have a good staff in there.

“I think (offensive line coach) Justin Frye as the run game coordinator will do an excellent job in there, and that’s a very important job to be able to put together the run game, put together the protections and tie those two things together, so I know what the two of those guys can do, and I’m also still going to be very much involved with it. I’m gonna be in there every day and, and we’ll figure out how that shakes out. Kevin was very strong in that area, but the rest of that room was really strong. So I think that’s where I felt comfortable, and I felt like it was the right progression for Brian.”

As far as what he might have gleaned from watching Wilson, a legendary offensive mind who helped develop the modern spread-to-run offense as a coordinator at Northwestern and Oklahoma before becoming head coach at Indiana, the No. 1 lesson had more to do with managing the head coach than the actual plays.

“Kevin was full of knowledge,” Hartline said. “He would communicate, keep coach Day calm. I think he was a good sounding board.”

Wilson also relied heavily on the rest of the coaches, something Hartline intends to do with Frye, running backs coach Tony Alford and new tight ends coach Keenan Bailey.

“It’s the dynamic of all of us,” Hartline said.

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