With Brian Hartline's history in football and track at GlenOak High School, he had a headstart in 2021 wide receiver Jayden Ballard's recruitment. Now, it's beginning to pay off in big ways.
When Ohio State wide receivers coach Brian Hartline arrived at Washington High School Massillon for the Massillon Football Showcase on May 1, the vibe of the combine seemed to shift.
More than 40 college scouts stood in the middle of the football field. Scouts from Nebraska, Indiana, Penn State, Notre Dame and other smaller nearby schools were preparing to watch the 40-yard dashes of the payers they came to watch – the majority of Power Five schools there to watch 2021 standout receiver Jayden Ballard.
Washington head coach Nate Moore had made his rounds to greet every coach in attendance and was now waiting near the finish line at one of two 40-yard dash stations. He was at the one that Ballard, who was lining up for the first sprint, would finish.
Just before Ballard was set to take off, Hartline arrived by greeting Moore just in time to watch Ballard run the 40 in 4.45 seconds. Hartline stood next to Moore for the rest of the 40-yard dashes, and the two assistant coaches standing on either side of the finish line timing each runner broke concentration for the first time to make conversation with Hartline.
2021 wideout and big Ohio State target Jayden Ballard runs a 4.48 40-yard dash. His first one was 4.45. Ohio State is here to watch him at the Massillon Showcase. pic.twitter.com/RiEBpFacfI— Taylor Lehman (@TaylorRLehman) May 1, 2019
It was as if Hartline was at home with friends – because he was. The new Ohio State wide receivers coach is a legend at GlenOak High School, just a half-hour away from Massillon. He fielded questions about what it was like to grow up in a time without HUDL.com and told stories about his track and field days.
Nearly everyone at the event wanted to talk to Hartline – players, coaches, spectators, everyone. And while Hartline took time to talk to most of them, he was there for one player, and it was Ballard.
Ballard was the second player the Buckeyes offered in the 2021 class, and to this point, he has shown why. He was rated as the No. 19 wide receiver in the class by 247Sports, and that might be an underestimation.
Ballard caught 36 passes for 851 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2018, but to see him play one-on-one against some of the best competition is a privilege. At The Opening Regionals, which also took place on his home field in Massillon, Ballard put most of the defensive backs on skates and caught every ball thrown his way.
While the 6-foot-2 receiver was running through skill drills, Hartline was filming, watching Ballard glide over pads, cut through a lateral movement drill and smoothly post the best three-cone drill at the event. When Ballard moved stations to the next drill, Hartline followed, asking questions and making comments to the assistant coaches running each drill.
It’s clear that Hartline is focused on Ballard in the 2021 class, and Ballard is certainly focused on Ohio State. There might not be a player more fitting for the label of letting his play do the talking than Ballard. But his head coach is helping him with communications with coaches, and Hartline’s relationship with Massillon is paying dividends.
Following The Opening on March 31, Moore told Ballard after the receiver walked away from the media to send his tape to and update Hartline on his performance at the showcase, since he is too young to be contacted by Hartline electronically.
“He’s been in contact with Coach Hartline pretty much since he was promoted to the position that he’s in now,” Moore said. “It’s good. He just needs to keep up the contact. Communication is key in all relationships.”
Ballard on a fly route pic.twitter.com/mSWpfJEW56— Taylor Lehman (@TaylorRLehman) May 1, 2019
That communication is especially key between Hartline and Ballard this offseason, before Ballard takes on an expectedly larger role in the Washington offense and more teams take notice as his ratings rise.
With Hartline’s roots at Glen Oaks, his relationship with and trust between Moore and the several assistant coaches at Washington and the way that Ohio State is perceived by the storied Massillon program, it will be difficult for any team to sever the bond already created with Ballard, as it seems Ohio State already leads Notre Dame, Penn State, Michigan State and the others for Ballard’s interest by a wide margin.