"The key for me, and every player on our team, is to be completely healthy going into the season," Hartline stated. "That's why we do so much conditioning all year long. We want to be stronger and faster, but we want to be in great shape to prevent injury also. I'm really concentrating on being better in the film room and learning to be a better player mentally just as much as improving physically. People talk about the game slowing down for them, but that can only happen when you know your position better. You can only get so fast from a conditioning aspect, but you can play faster through knowing the game better. I want to be able to play the game at a faster level."
Hartline is also hoping to have more opportunities to catch more deep balls in 2008. He felt the wide receivers as a whole will need to be better at that aspect of the game for the passing game to improve.
"People think that getting open deep is just about being the fastest guy on the field and running by everybody, and that's not the case at all," he explained. "Catching deep passes is more of a positioning game. In this day and age everybody is so fast that it's rare to see someone just out-run a defensive back. You beat these defensive backs by keeping them in their backpedal while you come up on them. You need to stay in the middle of their body so they can't open up right away. When you get by them, you need to keep that body position and not let them use their burst to get by you again. It's more about proper technique than it is pure speed. That comes with maturity and learning, just like any other part of the game. It's a skill that you learn as you get smarter. Teddy Ginn was always fast, but he became a better deep threat as he got smarter and more experienced as a receiver. He didn't get faster, but he got a lot better. The coaching we get at Ohio State is so good that we sometimes get frustrated that we aren't able to do things perfectly all the time. We are learning why being more experienced players adds another dimension to this team."
Hartline is a player that still feels the sting of consecutive championship losses. Although the recent loss to LSU was just as painful as the loss to Florida the previous year, Hartline saw a drastic difference in the way both games were played.
"The LSU loss was so different than the loss to Florida," Hartline explained. "Against LSU, I never felt the game was out of control and I don't feel the score was indicative of how close the teams were. The LSU players I talked with said the same thing. There was a feeling on the field that our teams were pretty evenly matched, but we didn't capitalize on certain opportunities and we made far too many mistakes. On the other hand, LSU was great on third down and they made plays when they needed to. I was more disappointed with losing to LSU than in losing to Florida. Against Florida, we never had control of the game at any point and we got ripped apart totally. LSU might have used their experience to their advantage. They won on third down and I felt that was a key to the game. They played better than we did and deserved to win. They were a very mature team and it showed in the way they played."
Hartline definitely feels the 2008 Ohio State Buckeyes have a chance to be as good as the previous two teams he has played on.
"I think this is just as talented a team as any I've played on at Ohio State, but until we prove something on the field those are just words," Hartline stated. "We will see how talented we are at the end, when we compare our season to some of the past Ohio State teams. You don't look at how talented you are at the beginning of the season. You look back at the end and then you can determine just how good you were by your won-loss record. I'm proud of the past two seasons I've been a part of. I'm hoping to take things one step further in 2008."
Hartline has a lot of confidence in his quarterback, Todd Boeckman. He spoke of Boeckman's success as a first-year starter last year.
"The fact that he's entering his second year as the starter means everything," Hartline said of Boeckman. "For a first year starter, Todd was about as good as they come. Look back at some of the great quarterbacks in Ohio State history and compare them to Todd. I think you'll see that Boeckman stacks up pretty well to any of them. I'm not sure how anyone could be disappointed in how he did. He was following the Heisman Trophy winner and I think people will see an even better player this year. He's the leader of the offense and people love playing for the guy. Todd will be really good this year and I can see improvement in him already this summer."
Hartline is a player that knows how important it is for an Ohio State football player to succeed off the field. He spoke of what he's hoping to accomplish this season in that aspect of his development.
"As an older player it's very important to me that I'm able to pass on the stuff to the younger guys that they need to know," he said. "We need to pass on the traditions of Ohio State football that we learned when we were freshmen. We need to make sure that the Tressel era continues to be consistent in terms of doing things the right way. That is very important to me. That is clearly the responsibility of the older guys, to pass the right things on to the younger players. There is a certain way that Jim Tressel expects things to be done and it's our job to make sure they get communicated properly."
Hartline spoke about how some of the younger players are progressing. He admitted to being impressed with a few of his new teammates.
"You can see that Devier Posey has a lot of talent," Hartline said of the incoming freshman receiver. "He needs to make sure he works hard every day and learns the playbook. It wouldn't surprise me at all if Devier gets some playing time this year. He's a very talented player. Guys like Dane Sanzenbacher, Taurian Washington and Devon Torrence aren't going to roll over and let him or Jake Stoneburner take their spots at all. At Ohio State it's all about competing and then seeing who the best man is. Those guys are all doing well and that will make our team stronger. The tight end situation is really strong. Rory Nicol and Jake Ballard are both really good and we've added a guy in Nic DiLillo who looks like he's going to be pretty good in time. All the incoming freshmen appear to be really talented. They're working hard and it's easy to see why they were so highly rated by the scouting services."
Hartline also spoke about freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor, especially the expectations surrounding the youngster.
"I kind of feel bad for [Terrelle] Pryor because of all the hype he came in with," Hartline said. "That's a lot of pressure on a young kid just out of high school. He's going to be more scrutinized than any player on the team and that's unfair to him. He's just a very talented player that picked a great university to attend. People need to leave him alone and let him develop at his own pace. He has a lot of things he needs to work on and he has a lot to learn. If he does what the coaching staff wants him to do, then he'll be fine. He's just like everyone on this team. The players that take coaching and learn from their mistakes always succeed at Ohio State. Everybody here is really talented, but it's what you do mentally to apply that talent, that makes the difference between success and failure. With Terrelle Pryor there's certainly a lot to look forward to, believe me. He's going to make mistakes, but he'll learn from them and he will be a great player eventually."
Hartline was candid when speaking about the expectations for the 2008 Ohio State team. He knows this team will be seen as a bridge to future Buckeye teams and he expects things to be done correctly.
"I feel this is a make or break year for our team," he said honestly. "I feel there are a lot of things we need to accomplish to continue the thinking that Ohio State is a national championship contender. I'm confident in the morale of this team. I think the traditions that make Ohio State great are being upheld and that absolutely needs to continue. This could be the last go-around for a lot of players on this team. There are potentially a lot of players that could be leaving the program after this season, due to all the seniors and people possibly leaving early for the NFL. This could be a year that changes the face of this program, so we need to be conscious of that fact and focused on doing things correctly from the first day we report for camp. I truly believe this team is driven to be as good as we can be, and I know every player on this team wants to earn our way back to the championship game to win it all this time."