Hartline's Game Really Coming Together

Although he only has nine catches in nine games, Brian Hartline is averaging 18.3 yards per catch which leads the way for the Ohio State receiving corps. He's also become a headache for opposing teams trying to set up a kickoff return in recent weeks. Hartline, who had four catches for 69 yards to lead all OSU receivers in both categories against Minnesota, is becoming quite a ball player.

Through nine weeks into the season, Brian Hartline sure doesn't sound like or play like, for that matter, a redshirt freshman.

After hauling in a team-high four passes for a game-high 69 yards against Minnesota, Hartline, with only nine receptions on the season, leads Ohio State with an 18.3 yard average-per-catch.

"I think that's kind of the role I'm playing right now," said Hartline during the post-game press conference after the 44-0 win. "I think it's more of an understanding that if I do get the ball maybe it might be a deeper throw. But I think it's mainly just being given the opportunity and then taking advantage of the opportunity. That's basically what it comes down to for me."

Being fundamentally sound, in spite of the conditions, helped Hartline record his modest yet stellar numbers against the Gophers.

"The coaches told us today before we (left) that on a day like today, with the swirling wind, to make sure to keep your eyes on the stripes a little longer, and that's kind of what I did," he said. "I forgot about the defenders, made sure I caught the ball and then worried about getting tackled."

Hartline is definitely making the most of his opportunities this season not only at wide receiver but on special teams as well where he's been somewhat of a demon in recent weeks on the kickoff cover team.

"I was given an opportunity with some injuries and I'm just making sure that I stay in that position and stay on the field because I can only make plays when I'm on the field," Hartline said. "So I think that's more of what it is. It's an understanding that when given an opportunity, the coaches always talk about it, make sure you make a play and do your part."

Hartline even surprised himself by making big hits on the kickoff coverage team, sort of.

Brian Hartline knocking down the kickoff returner (#2) against Indiana.

"Guys ask me like, ‘What are you doing down there?,' and I just respond with an ‘I don't know.' " he said. "I just respond by saying that he got the ball and I'm going to make him pay. I've been hit enough over the past 10 years and I think that I'm going to start hitting some people. So if I don't get hit, if I don't get blocked, then I'm going to try to make a play on somebody."

But despite his prowess on the special teams, Hartline wants to make it clear that he is a wide receiver first and foremost.

"I think sometimes people forget that I'm a receiver though first and that's how my mind set is always going to be," Hartline said. "But whether it's offense or defense, if my role changes then I guess I have to become a different player. I think it's more of the realization of whatever role that I need to play, that I make sure I dominate that role and take care of business."

It's all a part of the maturation process that Hartline has had to go through just to get to this point.

After having to sit out his entire senior year at GlenOak High School due to a devastating leg injury, Hartline went on to become the state's hurdle champion that following spring in the 110 and 300 meter events. And now, after redshirting his freshman year at Ohio State, Hartline is finding a niche as a big-play wide receiver.

"I think the redshirt was tremendous for me," said Hartline who also had to shut down his season last year when he suffered a broken collarbone. "At first, just being a competitor, you get a little frustrated, anyone does. You kind of feel a little separated from the team, which happens. But (redshirting) was definitely the best thing for me. I matured, didn't lose any eligibility, it helped me understand the schemes, understand college football, the system, everything.

"I think it was the best situation for me. I wasn't ready to play last year, no matter how much I thought I was...I wasn't. And everything is working out pretty well for me right now."

He might even be doing better than he actually thought he would be doing this year.

"To a point," Hartline said. "My expectations were a little low at the beginning of the year, playing time-wise. But then, what comes with playing more, comes the hunger. The more you play, the more you want to keep playing and things like that. That just comes with being a competitor."

The sky is the limit now for Hartline who now has a pretty good idea of how good he could become at this level.

"I'm definitely getting a feel of it," he said. "People try to remind me that ‘You're going to be a good player. Just keep playing, keep playing.' And that's all that I need to hear. As long as I get that positive reinforcement behind my back, that push behind my back that, ‘You're doing well. Just keep playing. You might not get all of the opportunities in the world right now but just keep playing and everything should work out.' "

Things are really starting to work out for Hartline and he's having a lot fun in the process.

"It's awesome," he said. "But we have to finish good though. Sometimes when it starts out really great it can end bad, so we just have to make sure that we finish this bad boy out."

There's no doubt you can count on Hartline to do his part.

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