Sophomore wide receiver Brian Hartline had a fine season as a red-shirt freshman in 2006. Hartline caught 17 passes for 256 yards and scored 2 touchdowns for the Buckeyes.
This season he is expected to start at wide receiver as the Buckeyes look to replace Anthony Gonzalez and Ted Ginn. Hartline is excited to get the season started and feels he has prepared himself to take on an expanded role in the offense.
"I'm ready to go," Hartline proclaimed after working as a youth counselor at Lexington's youth camp. "I'm a lot stronger. I've finally put on some weight and up to 195 pounds right now. That's a positive thing for me. Coach [Darrell] Hazell wanted me at that weight so it's good to be where I need to be. I feel I'm more physically ready to play than I was last year."
Hartline is not only excited about his own opportunity, he's quite enthused about the Buckeyes being able to repeat the success of 2006. Last year saw Ohio State win the Big-10 championship and advance to the national title game. Although the season ended on a sour note, Hartline is confident the Buckeyes can achieve the same type of success in 2007.
"For myself, I'm looking forward to catching more passes," Hartline explained. "I want to be more of an impact player, understanding that I carry more of a load now. It's not about relying on other guys, because my teammates are relying on me now. I'm excited to be at this point in my career and hopefully I can do what this team needs me to do for us to be successful."
"Our offense is going to be very good this year," Hartline said confidently. "Fans seem to be worried about us having to replace some key guys. We were brought in for a reason. We're Brian Hartline, Brian Robiskie and Albert Dukes. It's not about who we're replacing. It's about us going out there and playing the way the staff wants us to play. That's why they recruited us. It's about getting the job done the way we need to have it done."
Hartline doesn't believe the Buckeyes will need to alter their style of play even though there will be new faces starting on offense. Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith will be tough to replace, but Hartline feels Todd Boeckman is a more than adequate successor at the quarterback position.
"I love Todd Boeckman as our quarterback," Hartline exclaimed. "He throws a great ball that's easy to catch. He has great touch on the football. He throws with a lot of velocity but it's not too hard from a receiver's aspect. He's obviously not as experienced as Troy Smith, but Todd's a smart guy who's been around the program a while. I think he'll pick things up pretty quick once he gets out there. He just took over in the spring and proved he's the right guy to lead us."
"I think our offense will be nearly the same as last year from a technical standpoint," he said. "I don't think you'll see as much 5-wide receiver sets, probably more 3 and 4, but we'll still look to spread the field. I think our base set will be a 3-wide set but still running the same type of offense as last year. I think we'll aim for the same run-pass ratio, but with less wide receivers on the field. Chris Wells should have a huge season, but I don't necessarily think we'll be running the football that much more. Remember, Antonio Pittman was a great player, so there's no reason to do anything differently than what has worked in the past. In this day and age of college football the successful teams have the ability to both throw and run the football. Balancing the two will be the key to moving the football this year."
Hartline feels he's learned a lot in his first two years in Columbus and he spoke about what he needs to continue to do to get better as a football player.
"I learn every day how to be better," Hartline explained. "Take the Florida game for example. In some ways you want to forget and not dwell on that loss, but in other ways you need to learn from it and not let that it happen again. I think as a team it made us humble and it reminds us that we can't just show up and win. There were some fundamentals that are being repeated and I'm trying to learn from that loss and be a better player because of it. The coaches leave us little reminders to keep us motivated. Small things that are hints that our performance was unacceptable."
"Another thing I've learned is that everybody is athletically gifted at this level," he continued. "What separates you is the ability to be coached, the ability to play fast and the ability to learn the game. That is basically what separates you from everyone else. There are plenty of athletes all across this country. It's not about being a better athlete necessarily. You can be fast without pads on, but if you can't play the game fast it won't help you. I understand that the more I learn in the film room, the better player I become."
His relationship with the entire Buckeye staff is something that Brian Hartline treasures. He feels the coaching staff at Ohio State is the best in the country, both on and off the field.
"My relationship with my position coach, Darrell Hazell, is a good relationship," Hartline noted. "We've definitely grown together. That takes time because when you first come in, you aren't best friends with your position coach. If I ever need anything I know he's there for me. We've really gotten to know each other and I go over to his house for dinner every so often. Those kinds of things really make you closer."
"Jim Tressel is by far the best coach in college football," Hartline exclaimed emphatically. "He's also one of the best men I've ever met in my life. I don't know how he balances everything so well. He has so many responsibilities but he takes care of everything and never slights anybody. A head coach can't be a Woody Hayes today. You have media responsibilities, you have to stay in contact with your players and you need to worry about everybody's feelings. Somehow he finds a way to be everyone's friend and still be a great coach at the same time. That's extremely difficult to do but he does it with a smile every day. I couldn't imagine playing for any other coach."
Finally, Hartline spoke about his expectations for the 2007 Ohio State Buckeyes. Not surprisingly, Brian Hartline is expecting the Buckeyes to accomplish great things this upcoming season.
"Look we're Ohio State and we expect to be good," he said with resolve in his voice. "We have some unfinished business from the Florida game. It's made us hungry to get back to the title game and redeem ourselves. There's no reason why we can't go back. That's the goal at Ohio State and it always will be the goal. This is Ohio State football and if any player doesn't think we should go undefeated, he shouldn't be suiting up to play. It's not something I probably should be saying really. It's something everybody should be quietly thinking though. I expect to win every game I play. That will never change."