"I'm not thinking about that stuff," he said. "I'm focused in on Texas and there really isn't time for much else."
Hartline admitted that before leaving for the Fiesta Bowl he filed the necessary paperwork with the NFL to determine his draft status. But he also said that early reports that he had already made a decision were false.
"Someone asked me that question after the Michigan game, and the question came so out of the blue that I didn't have time to really think about it," he said. "So I said, yeah, I'd have to consider it. That's what I'm doing – considering it. But by no means have I made up my mind."
Hartline said he would consult with his family, including fiancé Lindsey, before making his final decision.
College underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare for the draft.
Hartline isn't the only Ohio State player with a decision to make about his future. Classmates such as Chris "Beanie" Wells, Jim Cordle and Donald Washington could make themselves available for the draft, set for April 25-26 in New York City.
Wells, whom observers believe will forgo his senior season, seemed to indicate Wednesday that he has not made a decision either way. Speaking about what legacy he would like to leave at Ohio State, Wells said, "It's really not big enough for my satisfaction. I have so many more things I would like to accomplish. Whether that happens remains to be seen.
"I wanted to be the best running back (in) Ohio State (history), and I feel like I haven't done that yet. When you have an opportunity to do it, sometimes you have to jump on the opportunity while it's there."
Last season, several OSU players could have jumped to the NFL early. Defensive end Vernon Gholston did make the leap and went to the New York Jets with the sixth overall selection in the draft. But others such as linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freemen, defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and offensive tackle Alex Boone got together and decided to return for their senior season.
Hartline said that there has been no such group discussion this year.
"I really don't know what Beanie or any of the other guys are going to do," he said. "I know that it's a huge decision and not one that I could just make off the top of my head. If you're good enough, the NFL is always going to be there. But once you leave college, that's it.
"I have my degree, so it's a little different for me, I guess. I also know that if you don't play that senior year, that's something you can't get back. It's gone forever."
MACK'S SACK ATTACK
Texas piled up 44 sacks during the 2008 regular season, the most in the nation. That is of particular importance to Ohio State, which suffered more than its share of injuries this year along the offensive line, especially at the guard position.
Seniors Steve Rehring and Ben Person each missed significant amounts of playing time during the season, and junior Jim Cordle – who switched from center to guard when Rehring was sidelined early in the season – is now battling a knee problem that will likely keep him out of the starting lineup Monday night.
The Buckeyes are expected to start senior Alex Boone at left tackle, Rehring at left guard, freshman Michael Brewster at center, Person at right guard and sophomore Bryant Browning at right tackle. Tight ends Rory Nicol and Jake Ballard will likely also be on call to help deal with an active Texas front four that includes Lombardi Award winner Brian Orakpo at defensive end.
"They've got a great defensive line – no question about it," Rehring said. "They're quick, they're mobile, they like to hit you, and it shows in their performance."
Orakpo gets most of the recognition because of his 18 tackles for loss and 10½ sacks, both team-leading figures. The 6-4, 260-pound senior uses a variety of moves against opposing offensive tackles, combining power and linebacker speed to get to the quarterback.
Joining him on the Texas defensive line is All-Big 12 nose tackle Roy Miller, a 6-2, 295-pound hole-plugger who had 46 tackles on the season, including 10 for loss. Between then, Orakpo and Miller were credited with 53 quarterback hurries.
"Those guys are very, very good," Bryant said. "It didn't take a whole lot of film to recognize that. We know what the challenge is going to be to try and stop those guys."
Orakpo typically lines up on the right side of his defense, meaning that keeping him off OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor will be the assignment of Boone. Still, Browning expects that he may be asked to block against the Lombardi winner as well.
"Most of the time, he's going to line up over the left tackle," Browning said. "But there have been times when he'll come over and try the right side. I just have to be ready for that challenge – just trust my technique and get him blocked."
In addition to the hard-charging defensive line, Texas also boasts a pair of linebackers who had outstanding seasons. Junior Roddrick Muckelroy led the Longhorns this season with 106 tackles – 43 more than anyone else on the team – and junior Sergio Kindle enjoyed a breakout season on the strong side. He totaled 50 tackles, including 13 for loss and nine sacks, was credited with 15 quarterback hurries and recovered two fumbles.
"It's going to be a challenge, but these kinds of games are why I came to Ohio State in the first place," Person said. "We've had some trouble recently in what people call the ‘big games,' but playing in big games is why you go to Ohio State. As seniors, this is our last game and we like the challenge that playing against a team like Texas gives to us."
FIESTA BOWL NUGGETS
** Getting after the quarterback isn't exactly a novel idea for the Longhorns. Since 1999, Texas ranks third nationally in total sacks with 371. Only Southern Cal (377) and TCU (374) have more.
** Texas and Ohio State had both better be ready to score some points if either wants to win. Each of the winners of the last three games staged by the Fiesta Bowl has topped 40 points. Boise State won a 43-42 overtime thriller over Oklahoma in 2007, and a week later, Florida scored a 41-14 win over OSU in the BCS championship game. Last year, West Virginia rolled to a 48-28 win over Oklahoma.
** Even with all of the big point totals recently, some of the oldest standing Fiesta Bowl records have to do with scoring. Arizona State running back Woody Green holds the bowl record with four touchdowns during his team's 49-35 win over Missouri in 1972. And Florida State's Rhett Dawson established the single-game mark for most points scored by a receiver when he tallied 20 points (three TDs and a two-point conversion) during the Seminoles' 45-38 loss to Arizona State in inaugural Fiesta Bowl played Dec. 27, 1971.
** Each team received a payout of $168,237 for appearing in that first-ever Fiesta Bowl. Ohio State and Texas are expected to receive more than $18 million each for playing in Monday night's contest.
Here are links to BuckeyeSports.com's other Fiesta Bowl stories from Arizona: