Brian Hartline Ohio State Buckeyes Receivers Coach

Ohio State Football Notebook: ‘I sleep a little better’

Off And Running

When former Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford left for the same position at Michigan earlier this month, it sent shockwaves around the college football world.

Leaving during spring camp is one thing. Leaving during spring camp for your rival is another thing entirely.

Alford departed after two spring practices while the university was on spring break. The concern on social media from Buckeye fans was that Alford was going to take the playbook and everything new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly had added and hand it over to the enemy.

Last week, in speaking with reporters for the first time since the Alford departure, Day was asked if this was a concern.

“We’re nowhere near where we’re going to be as we head down the road,” Day said. “That was two practices in the spring and a lot of what we did was what we’ve done in the past, and then we sprinkled in a couple of things that Chip’s done. There’s just so much more that he has that’s out in front of us.

“But I think more importantly, things could look differently moving forward in terms of our offense. Just how we’re doing things, who’s in what spots. We have really good receivers, we have really good tight ends, we have good running backs. But ultimately it comes down to what the quarterback can do well, the types of throws that he can make.”

As Day has said many times, the spring is more for individual development than team development. There is obviously playbook work being done, but you don’t design a playbook without knowing what you’ve got to work with and what your players do best.

The quarterback situation is just one area where Day and Kelly need to know much more before they start implementing much of anything. And it’s not just the quarterback.

“And the run game will look different. It just will,” Day said. “And that’s a long time and a long journey to get to next November. So I just think there’s going to be so many twists and turns along the way that I think — and now with the quarterback communication, being able to use that, which we utilized the first three practices. That’s been good. That certainly allows us more flexibility as we call plays.”

Talkin’ Ball With Chip

This will be Brian Hartline’s seventh season as Ohio State’s receivers coach. Most assistant coaches don’t stay in one place for too long, but most don’t come into the business the way Hartline did. And most don’t stick around for as long as he has with the kind of success he has had.

That success landed Hartline a promotion last year to offensive coordinator. There were discussions of play calling this time a year ago but that never materialized.

Head coach Ryan Day is handing play calling duties over this year, however, but to Chip Kelly, who is Ohio State’s new offensive coordinator. Hartline is now sharing titles. Some people might think Hartline could be bitter about the Kelly hire, but to hear Hartline tell it, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I love working with Chip,” Hartline said. “I love talking ball. I love the viewpoints. I love the veteran [nature] that he has. I love all of it. I think that early on the biggest impact, just feeling and perspective, I think in the run game has been awesome. Then off of the run game, some of the actions or relief throws or all that kind of stuff, I love where it’s at. I love working with him. And he’s a great person to be around.”

With Kelly on board, how has this changed Hartline’s role?

“I would say that I sleep a little better,” he joked. “No, it’s really a great combo because we’re obviously doing a lot as a group, it’s not just Chip and I. But obviously, Chip has an image, a view on things that I never had. So to have that experience and to have that viewpoint, I’m just trying to absorb as much as I can. But then also highlight some things we’ve really done a good job of, and make sure nothing’s really changing. We’re just trying to enhance. We’re not changing, we’re enhancing. So where the things fit is perfect. I think the rest of the dynamics, I’m sure Chip can talk about, but it’s been awesome.”

Staying For A Reason

Leading up to Ohio State’s Cotton Bowl loss, there was a sense around the program that a number of the juniors with NFL decisions were going to come back for their senior seasons. They still wanted a win over Michigan, they still wanted a Big Ten title, and they still wanted whatever came after that.

Defensively, everybody who could have left came back — save for defensive tackle Mike Hall. The rest of the defensive line returned, however.

A year ago, Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson probably never expected to have defensive ends JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer back for their senior seasons. But now he does.

How did it happen?

“It’s been a it’s been a process right? So you spend most of your time recruiting off campus, but you also spend your time recruiting guys in your room,” Johnson explained. “There was a possibility those guys could leave, and it was just great conversations. It’s the culture, it’s the brotherhood. It’s all the reasons why it came back.

“But we spent a lot of time talking. Talked to the parents. And for them to make the right decisions, it still came down to them making a decision, what’s best for them. And we all felt the best thing was to come back and try to do it again. And I think it’s awesome. Speaks volumes of the kids and the family. But it really speaks about what they believe in. The Brotherhood, the culture of this program is why they came back.”

Four Ohio State defensive linemen put the NFL on hold for a year. Along with Sawyer and Tuimoloau, defensive tackles Tyleik Williams and Ty Hamilton also opted to return. Combine them with the up-and-coming linemen behind them who are all now a year older, and this should become something special.

Could it be Johnson’s best defensive line at Ohio State?

“I think the fact that those guys came back make us stronger. There’s no question,” he said. “You’ve got experienced players who’ve played and they’re coming back, and they’ve been great. It’s been really great. So I think there’s a chance for us to be really good, but it’s a long ways away to determine that, but I like where we are in a sense that those guys make us better and also make the young players better.”

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