Where In The World, er, Ohio Is Gary Housteau?

In day three of his trip around the state of Ohio, Gary took a trip down to Canton to check out GlenOak and McKinley, and then he made an ambitious drive to check out Columbus Brookhaven before photo day. Gary came away with in-depth interviews with GlenOak WR and OSU commitment Brian Hartline, McKinley DT Antwon Hight, and Brookhaven ATH Alex Daniels.

On day number three of my tour last week, it was photo day at Ohio Stadium, so I knew I had to be in Columbus by 4:30 at the very latest. I figured that I would trek through Canton and check out GlenOak and McKinley which are located about three or four miles apart. I wanted to touch base with the Hartline brothers and Brandon Long at GlenOak and then check on Antwon Hight at McKinley. If time permitted I wanted to stop at Brookhaven in Columbus and check out Alex Daniels.

It was an ambitious agenda and I would need to get lucky to make it happen.

When I got to GlenOak in the morning, the Golden Eagles had about 45 minutes left in their morning session and head coach Jack Rose basically told me to help myself with his guys after I was done speaking with him. Some high school football coaches are just saints, the majority of them are. If you respect them, they respect you, for the most part.

Rose said he is happy with the progress of his team at this early stage.

"The kids have worked hard and they're picking things up, and I think we're a little further along than we were a year ago at this point in time, and we expected that. Especially offensively," Rose said. "Defensively we've always felt that we are going to be pretty good; we've got a lot of guys back on defense. But right now we're trying to find three guys on the offensive line that can help us. If we can find those three, I think we have a chance to be very good on the offensive side of the ball."

The Hartline brothers, Brian (pictured left) and Mike are two integral parts of the offensive unit at GlenOak. Brian is the senior receiver who verbally committed to Ohio State and Mike is the junior who replaced Brian at quarterback in midseason last year and is now regarded as one of the state's top young signal callers.

"Those two kids really are competitive guys and they work really hard," Rose said. "They're not hard to motivate and they're team guys, so it's easy to get them going."

Rose has already compared Brian, athletically, to another Golden Eagle player that he coached, Dustin Fox.

"He's only played receiver about five or six games last year. Prior to that he was our quarterback, and the year before that, as a sophomore, he was running tailback for us," Rose said. "The only thing that I can tell you is that Dustin Fox was here a couple of weeks ago at one of our camps and I was asking Dustin about Brian and he said, ‘Coach, he runs his routes as well as anybody that we have at Ohio State. The only guy I can think of that might run his routes better is the wide receiver that I had to cover in the national championship. He's as polished as any wide receiver that I've seen.'

"He's very fast, he's very quick and he's got excellent hands. So I think he's got a chance to be a pretty good player."

Mike continues to make significant strides at quarterback, according to Rose.

"We saw early on as a freshman that he that he had some special skills, and our plan was for him last year as a sophomore to play about a quarter of the game, every game," he said. "But as the season went on, he progressed so quickly and it just came time for him to take over and then we could move Brian outside and stretch the defense and put more speed on the outside. So when that happened, we started to win. Once we made that move with those two, we started to click offensively and put some points on the board."

In just half a season at the controls, Mike Hartline (pictured left), who threw for almost 1,200 yards last year, became a top recruit in the class of 2006.

"He's got potential and he wants to be a good player," Rose said. "He's a student of the game and he works hard on the mental end of it. Physically, he's got to get bigger and he knows that, but he's put on about 20 pounds from last year and he's close to 180 pounds now. If he can do that again next year, put on another 20 pounds, a 6-6, 200 pound quarterback is pretty good."

Any special plays in the playbook for the brothers?

"We're trying to spread it around, but they're brothers, so he'll be looking for Brian," Rose said. "That's going to happen."

In addition to the Hartline brothers, Rose mentioned Brandon Long as being a player to keep an eye on.

"I really think his potential, if wants to play in the Big Ten, is probably at tight end," the coach said. "I think he can be an outstanding tight end because he's got legitimate 4.5 speed, he's 6-3 ½ and 230 pounds and he can get down the field. I think he's only going to get bigger. His dad is huge and Brandon's not done growing yet. I think he can be a 6-4 or 6-5 guy before it's over.

"On defense for us, he's an outside linebacker and he comes off the edge real well. We're going to move him around a little more this year. Not only is he going to be a pass rusher, but we're going to drop him into coverage and things like that. We're going to try to use him a little more and use his athletic ability a little more. But when he comes off the edge, he's hard to block because of his speed and strength. He's really strong. He's got great natural strength and he's worked real hard in the weight room."

Rose also mentioned a junior lineman, Ryan Palmer (6-6, 285), that schools are interested in.

"He's got great feet. Jim Bollman told me that his feet are probably better than T.J. Downing's were at this point in their career," he said. "I think Ryan's got a chance to be a very good player. If he comes through for us on the offensive line and really plays up to his potential and does the things we think that he's capable of doing, I think we'll have a chance to be a pretty good offensive team. He's a basketball guy too; he's a good basketball player, so that helps his footwork."

The expectations are high at GlenOak.

"We're hoping, but this is a tough league so we have to be on top of our game," he said. "This league is tough from top to bottom and we really got our work cut out for us. If we stay injury free and keep our heads on right and keep working hard, we've got a chance to be pretty good."

Brian Hartline likes the way things are going early on as well.

"Compared to last year we're way ahead of schedule," he said. "We have a lot of expectations and we have a lot of players and we're making sure that we're ready to go. We have no buts or excuses."

Individually, Hartline feels the pressure to perform not only for the good of his team but for Ohio State as well.

"I always have my own expectations but I'm finding now that I'm wanting to perform even more just for the respect of OSU," said Hartline who committed to Ohio State in June. "I'm going to have bad games, I realize that, but I don't want people saying, ‘He's overrated.' So there's a lot of pressure; my own pressure then added to it OSU pressure, which is fine with me, but yeah, I feel it."

Wide receiver just seems like the natural position for him even though he's only played there for such a short time.

"When we played backyard football, I always wanted to play receiver and I've always saw myself as being a receiver in college, but at this level, the better athletes are at quarterback so I was at quarterback," Hartline said. "But I'm glad I switched over. Watching other receivers run their routes helped me out a lot. The fact that I could watch receivers run certain routes and then just go out and do it myself really helps out a lot."

He's a confident in his abilities for sure.

"I was always a running quarterback and then transferring over to receiver, you're running all the time so I have the confidence that I can run and I can make people miss," Hartline said. "And track builds my confidence a lot too because I've been real successful so far in that.

"But as soon as you start doubting yourself is when bad things happen, so you always got to think that you're better than the guy across from you. Not necessarily cocky, but an inner-confidence where you know that you're the better athlete."

And he couldn't be happier to have his younger brother calling the signals now.

"I love it," Brian said. "He is coming along so fast, and he's just starting to grow into his own body, and he's able to move around a lot better. I'm just fortunate enough to have a good enough quarterback like that, and then by him being my brother we have that inner trust that other quarterbacks and receivers might not have. Just the fact that he knows that he can throw it to me and I'll catch it. Even if he throws a bad ball, I'll still go and get it and we're helping each other out. So we appreciate each other and I love having him (as the quarterback)."

Focusing on his brother could hurt Mike some developmentally, but it will probably help GlenOak score more points and win more games at this level.

"Actually he's developed to the point where he knows that he has to hit the open receiver, it's just that, at this level, I'm still fortunate enough to be the one that is getting open because we're at the high school level still," Brian said. "And Brandon coming along is helping us both out a lot too. He's going to be huge target for us.

Brandon Long

"(Mike) might not like it as much because I'm the older guy, and I always put a little bit more pressure on him because I know that he can be even better than what he is now. I put pressure on him that maybe he doesn't need, but I still do it, and he puts a little pressure on me that I need, so I like it both ways."

Expect GlenOak to have a more vertical passing game this year.

"We're going to open it up this year," Brian said. "Last year I was catching a lot of short gainers; I wasn't going down the field very deep. I'm more of an inside receiver right now, I'll probably change when I go to college but right now it's easier to get the ball to me if I'm an inside receiver. I catch a lot of the little bubbles behind the line of scrimmage and have to gain all my yards. But we're going to air the ball out a lot more this year because my brother's arm came along a lot and we have more trust in our program."

He'll play on defense and start at corner for the Eagles, but Brian knows that his future will be on offense.

"If the coaches really feel that I'll be that better of a player in college on defense, then yeah, I'll give it my all," he said. "But as far as my mental aspect of the game, I feel that I'm a receiver and an offensive player."

With the start of the season just around the corner, Hartline is confident of his team's outlook.

"I'm real confident in this team," Brian said. "We're going to make the playoffs and we're hoping to go real deep. We have the talent and we're putting everything together; we're turning into an actual team. We actually put in a new offense, this spread offense, and 6-4 for a new offense wasn't too bad. So this is our second year and even our coaches are now getting a good feel for our offense; it's going to work really well for us."

Canton Fawcett Stadium scoreboard

Just a stone's throw to the southwest of GlenOak High School is Fawcett Stadium, home of the McKinley Bulldogs and also the place where the Golden Eagles play all of their home games. I caught up with Hight (pictured left) on the brand new surface at Fawcett between practices. Fawcett Stadium has a brand new scoreboard that was installed in time for the Hall of Fame game.

"Things are going real well. I've been concentrating on two-a-days, trying to do what I got to do to help the team out and maintain focus on football so we don't have a 3-7 season like we did last year," Hight said. "I've been doing everything Coach tells me and it's been working and paying off. I've been working hard."

Already a big-time force on defense at end, Hight hopes to be a difference maker on offense this season as well for the Bulldogs.

"Last year I didn't get the ball much at tight end, but Coach (Brian) Cross feels that I can effect the defense at tight end when I get the ball because I can move so well," Hight said. "They said they want to get the ball in my hands this year more than they did last year because I only caught three balls last year."

No matter how stellar he performs, the ominous academic clouds will always be swirling over his head during his senior season. Akron, West Virginia and Ohio State are some of the schools still keeping in touch with him to some extent.

"Grades aren't going to be a problem because I'll have it in gear this year and everything will be fine," Hight said. "I really needed to mature because it didn't really kick in until last season and it was overwhelming. It all happened so fast and when it started coming, it was too late. But it's real exciting and I want to make the most of it."

For now Hight wants to improve in the class room and help get McKinley back on top on the gridiron where he feels it belongs.

"I want to keep a 3.0 average in school and at least go 8-2 this season because the 3-7 season didn't feel very well," Hight said. "I'm going to be a vocal leader this year. I didn't do much of that last year, I just showed it on the field. McKinley will be back to where it needs to be."

If things work out, Hight still maintains that he'd love to play for Ohio State.

"Yeah, I'd love to be a Buckeye," he said.

About two hours later I arrived at Brookhaven High School and was lucky enough to find Daniels (pictured left) and teammate Dominic Jones doing a TV interview with a local Columbus station behind the high school.

When he finished with the TV crew, I got to ask him a few questions about recruiting in general.

"This is like the best time and the worst time for me because there's so many things going on and there's so many possibilities with all of these schools. I think it's great right now for me to take it all in right now," Daniels said. "Everybody told me it was going to be like this and this is how it really is."

He was actually laughing in disbelief.

"I didn't ever think when I was in the ninth grade that all of this was going to be possible," he said. "But through the grace of God, I've just been blessed."

By transferring to Brookhaven this off-season, the recruiting spotlight is likely to shine even brighter on Daniels this season. He made his name at Marion Franklin High School, but when he went to the Nike camp this spring he really showed everyone what he was made of.

"My tenth-grade year I went to the Ohio State camp because when I was growing up I always wanted to be a Buckeye, and I went there at first to see if they would have some interest in me," said Daniels, who claims that he would watch Ohio State play every Saturday growing up. "And when I came back to the Nike camp this time and I showed who I was in general and what I could do, I started to get all of this exposure."

So now he's just looking around to see what else is there in addition to Ohio State.

"Oh no, oh no," Daniels said. "Ohio is the home and you always got to look there, so it's not anything negative against them. That's a great program, they have a great tradition and they hive nice coaches, especially Tressel; he's crazy, that's a nice coach."

And two schools is not his limit. The 6-4, 227 pound Daniels, who was clocked at 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard at the Ohio State camp, also has his eye on LSU, Florida State and Miami but none of them have offered him yet.

"Two is not the limit, but I was just thinking about the two schools that have already offered me so I can see what advantages are at each school and (what position) I can play at and where I can fit into the scheme of things on defense," he said. "So it's not mainly two schools, but it's only two schools now."

And the only school out of his top five that Daniels even knows anything about at this time is Ohio State.

"I don't really know anything about Oklahoma until I take a visit down there and see what it's really like," he said. "But in the recent five-year span Coach (Bob) Stoops has won .875 percent of the time, so he's winning a lot of games. And Tressel came from Youngstown State and he came in and won a national championship. So it's like a battle, but it's just great right now."

Daniels like everything he knows about Ohio State as he compares it to Oklahoma or other schools.

"I'm happy with them. They want me to play linebacker, and that's cool with me. I just want to get on the field," he said. "Oklahoma wants me to play safety, and it really doesn't matter to me wherever they put me at whatever school I go to. I just want to get on the field."

The versatile Daniels, who worked with the wide receivers at the Nike camp, will play Will linebacker at Brookhaven and a little bit at safety and on offense he will play halfback. But if he could pick the position to play at on the college level, what would it be?

"Strong safety is where I'd like to play at because of Sean Taylor," Daniels said. "He opened up my eyes for defense. Sean Taylor was one of the outstanding safeties in the country so that's why I really looked at him."

And he likes to pattern his game after Taylor.

Daniels and teammate Keith Massey

"I got the speed and I'm physical," Daniels said. "I got it all and I can cover, except Keith (Massey, transferred to Brookhaven with Daniels from Marion-Franklin). With that 4.2 speed, I can't cover him. He's just too fast. But I can cover mostly anybody and I can tackle real good, so I think I would be a great strong safety or blitzing linebacker for anybody. So either position is cool with me."

And since it's been reported that his mom might not want him to stay around Columbus, I asked him about it. His mom is moving to Cleveland after he graduates from high school.

"She wants me to leave to go to college. She doesn't want me to stay in Columbus because she's not going to be here to guide me," Daniels said. "But I'll be grown and I think I can do good on my own, so I really don't know what I'm going to do yet. She's worried about me staying here and hanging with the wrong people and getting into trouble and not being focused.

"But I can think on my own, and I'm not going to let anybody else misguide me, but it's a possibility that it might happen down here. So that's why I'm looking at all of my options in town, out of town, wherever, to find the best fit for Alex Daniels."

He feels the local pressure to stay home, and he intends to attend many games at Ohio Stadium this year, but he still remains interested in Oklahoma as well.

"I'm still interested in Ohio State and Oklahoma, those are the two schools," he said. "After I take my official visit to Oklahoma (Texas game) during the season, I'm going to make my decision. It's a fifty-fifty thing right now."

I left Brookhaven and made it to Ohio Stadium in plenty of time for the photo day.

Mission accomplished.

(Watch for updates on this site or on JJHuddle.com about Mike Hartline, Brandon Long, Dominic Jones and Keith Massey.)

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