Brian Hartline has done it again. From the moment he stepped in as the Ohio State Buckeyes wide receivers coach in place of Zach Smith in 2018, many believed that he would succeed. Little did everyone realize, he would succeed so quickly — both on the field and on the recruiting trail — that it took just a little over four months for him to be promoted from an interim coach to a full-time gig.
All of that success already has accumulated into the upcoming recruiting class. Hartline has not only put Buckeye Nation on notice but all of college football on notice as well. With Mookie Cooper’s commitment on Monday, which put the finishing touches on Zone 6 for the 2020 class, Ohio State has four commitments from wide receivers in the class, all of which are top-100 prospects:
It’s not only one of the best wide receiver classes in Ohio State, but it’s the best in the country in 2020. Just how impressive is it? As previously stated, all four are top-100 prospects. The rest of the Big Ten has just five top-100 commitments at any position combined. There’s a reason the Buckeyes continue to dominate the rest of the conference.
I know, your biggest question might be the fact that there is only one football and with all that talent, how will the Buckeyes maximize those players on the field all at the same time. Well, I have some good news: All four have different skillsets—ones that allow each of the four to be on the field at the same time. Here’s what Eleven Warriors’ Taylor Lehman says about the quarter:
Fleming is a good combination of size and speed. He will sprint down the sidelines and make deep plays but also be lethal in crossing patterns that turn up the field. Scott isn’t the fastest wideout, but he is the strongest within the class. He will make the plays outside the numbers and have the most reliable hands. Smith-Njigba is aggressive and physical and will be a good option in short-yardage scenarios as well as a reliable wideout in late-down situations.
Cooper will work out of the slot primarily. He can run sweeps and actually line up in the backfield if need be. Anywhere the offense needs him, he will be able to play, and with Fleming, Scott and Garrett Wilson on the outside, there will be plenty of room for Cooper to do his work inside. He’s also probably the most effective big-play option out of the four.
With Hartline’s success both as a player — both at the college level and in the NFL — and early on as a coach, it has made his job quite easy to get some of the best receivers in the country to join him in Columbus. In early June, I wrote about how Hartline has already become an elite assistant coach, making first-year head coach Ryan Day’s job much easier. In the month since then, Hartline has continued to prove just how dominant of a coach he is.
In case you needed additional proof that he is elite: Hartline is ranked as the second-best recruiter among all assistants in college football so far for the 2020 class. Just behind him is first-year Ohio State cornerbacks coach and co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley.
He has set the Buckeyes’ offense up for success both now and in the future. Not only has he been able to get a dominant group of receivers in 2020, but Hartline was also able to do so in 2019. With commitments from Garrett Wilson (No. 2 WR in 2019 class) and Jameson Williams (No. 13 WR), Ohio State is in a good spot heading into this fall as well. Add in the fact that they return wideouts such as K.J. Hill, Austin Mack, Chris Olave, Binjimen Victor, and Jaylen Harris, among others, and the receiver room is stacked now and for the foreseeable future, even after so much talent left for the NFL following last season. Keep in mind, it’s very likely that Wilson will play a key role in the offense as a true freshman in 2019.
With help from quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr. and the emergence of the redshirt junior as a first-year, full-time starter, Hartline’s wideouts flourished in the pass-first offense in 2018. It obviously helps when the quarterback breaks virtually every school passing record for a single season, but that shouldn’t downplay the type of skill and talent the group of wideouts had either. That proved to be the case when two of Ohio State’s wide receivers were drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft, both of which were taken in the first three rounds: Parris Campbell to the Colts in the second round and Terry McLaurin to the Redskins in the third round. It was imperative that the Buckeyes replaced that group of wideouts that are now no longer with that program. Hartline has done just that and then some. So much that the expectations are now sky high for the wide receivers for the foreseeable future.
Ohio State’s offense may be a run-first one this fall, the complete opposite of Haskins’ in 2018 and much closer to J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller’s in the last decade, the wide receivers will likely not put up the same numbers in 2019 as they did in 2018. With that said, following Fields, the Buckeyes have early commitments from two throw-first, pro-style gunslingers in the upcoming recruiting classes: Jack Miller (No. 2 pro-style in 2020) and Kyle McCord (No. 5 pro-style in 2021).
The Buckeyes will continue to have a revolving door at wide receiver given all of the talent that will go to the NFL year in and year out, but with Hartline leading the charge, the group is in very good hands going forward. Ohio State has never really been considered #WRU, but if Hartline continues this dominance on the recruiting trail and on the field, the scarlet and gray may be considered in that group sooner rather than later.