Just 10 months into his coaching career, Brian Hartline has already proven to be an elite assistant coach for the Ohio State Buckeyes—both on the field and on the recruiting trail. This past Friday proved the latter (again) when five-star wide receiver Julian Fleming (No. 1 wide receiver, No. 6 overall in 2020 recruiting class). It was yet another recruiting win for Hartline, while his group continues to succeed on the football field as well.
With the wideout from Catawissa, Pennsylvania, Hartline was not only able to get the top wide receiver in the class to commit to the Buckeyes, but he did so by going in Penn State’s backyard to do so. Many believed that Fleming was going to commit to the Nittany Lions, but it was Hartline who changed everything the moment he took over in Columbus. The two developed a close relationship in a short amount of time.
“For a while, I thought I was going to Penn State. Then for a while, I thought I was going to Clemson, and then I just finally settled down and figured it out,” Fleming told ESPN’s Tom VanHaaren. “It was just the at-home feeling and their players. [Ohio State] puts their players first, and all my visits there, I had countless hours with all the players, so I really got the college vibe right away.”
Eleven Warriors’ Taylor Lehman seemed to further back that up.
Fleming’s commitment was a Brian Hartline achievement. The Pennsylvania wideout developed a relationship with Hartline since November, and after that visit, the relationship crescendoed through March, when he was in Columbus for the Student Appreciation Day visit, and into an early ending to his recruitment Friday. Hartline made it happen.
That “at home feeling” he’s talking about was in major part to Hartline. Given the fact that he was a former Buckeye and had quite a career in the NFL, the wide receivers coach has an experience that many other coaches do not. He knows how to treat players and get the best out of them, all while giving them the best opportunity now and in the future, especially in the NFL. His best and most-liked characteristic seems to be just being himself, both to current players and recruits.
Hartline can’t speak about specific recruits and he’s loathe to speak about recruiting strategies because he doesn’t agree with the idea that he uses any. In his mind, he’s the same Brian Hartline at the gas station as he is when he’s talking to recruits and their families. If you ask him how he’s done it, how he’s quickly succeeded in securing top players since taking over for Zack Smith on an interim basis last August and earning the full-time job in December, the question holds no water for him.
Done it? Done what? Be Brian Hartline?
“The big thing that rubs me the wrong way is being labeled as a good recruiter,” Hartline said. “I don’t even know what that means. To me, these guys aren’t like cars, they aren’t things you own, they aren’t objects.”
Being fake is the worst—in any workplace. For high school athletes looking to give themselves the best possibility to give themselves of playing at the highest level, they want coaches who are not only real but ones that will maximize their potential and have the pedigree and experience of past success. After a solid career as a Buckeye and seven-year career in the NFL, Hartline has the experience as a player and he clearly is proving to be successful as a coach as well.
Fleming isn’t the only one Hartline has played a key part in bringing to the Buckeyes over the past 10 months. He has also played a primary role in bringing in four-star wide receivers Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Gee Scott Jr, and Jameson Williams, and four-star pro-style quarterback Kyle McCord. In doing so, Hartline has already taken over as the No. 1 recruiting coach in the Big Ten (No. 6 nationally), according to 247Sports. He also played a key role in keeping Garrett Wilson — No. 2 wide receiver in 2019 — in the fold even after Urban Meyer stepped down as a head coach.
Hartline has the experience as a player, but in just his first season leading the wide receivers, he proved that he can get the best out of his players as well. In 2018, the senior trio that consisted of Parris Campbell, Johnnie Dixon, and Terry McLaurin combined for a very solid year, with help from quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. It was the main reason Campbell (second round) and McLaurin (third) were both drafted quite high in this past April’s NFL Draft.
That’s much of the reason high school prospects trust that Hartline will do what’s best for them and one of the many reasons why they are seemingly flocking to Columbus. Without those three, Hartline is now in charge of making the wide receivers group just as dominant.
As a first-year head coach, Ryan Day’s hands are quite full, with both new and old responsibilities, including much more of the former. With Hartline already proving his expertise as an assistant both on the recruiting trail and on the field, it’s one less thing Day has to worry about, which is vitally important.
Say what you want about the Zach Smith situation, whether it be how good of a coach he was and/or why head coach Urban Meyer kept him around for so long, but no matter how you feel about all that, one thing is clear: Hartline is already an elite coach. With more time on the job and more experience both on the field and in recruiting, the former Buckeye and NFL wide receiver will only improve, too. The Buckeyes seem to have a very special coach in Hartline, one that could potentially make many believe that Ohio State is #WRU in the very near future.