One of the Top Recruiters in College Football, Brian Hartline Believes the Best Recruiting Philosophy is “Being True to Yourself”

By Garrick Hodge on August 25, 2022 at 11:35 am
Brian Hartline

When Brian Hartline was a wide receiver for Ohio State from 2005 to 2008, the thought of coaching one day couldn’t have been further from his mind.

“I had no idea I wanted to be a coach,” Hartline told reporters Wednesday evening. “I wanted to do anything but football.” 

Funny how things work out.

After Urban Meyer asked Hartline multiple times to join his staff following his NFL career, Hartline finally decided to give coaching a shot in 2017 as a quality control assistant for the Buckeyes. He was promoted to wide receivers coach a year later. 

Since his promotion, Hartline’s rise in coaching circles has been astronomic. Entering his fifth year as an Ohio State position coach, Hartline earned yet another promotion, when he was named the team’s passing game coordinator this offseason. He’s received national accolades, most recently being named to The Athletic’s College Sports 40 Under 40 list. 

Last year alone, three wide receivers developed by Hartline at Ohio State were selected back-to-back-to-back in the first round of the NFL draft: Garrett Wilson, Chris Olave and Jameson Williams. Jaxon Smith-Njigba could easily be a top-10 pick in the 2023 NFL draft if he has a season similar to last year. 

Hartline is regarded as one of the best recruiters in college football, if not the best. Since the 2019 recruiting cycle, Ohio State has landed more top-100 wideouts (per 247Sports’ composite rankings) than anyone else in the country with 14, double the amount of the next-closest school.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find any college boast a better group of receivers in the 2023 recruiting class than the players Hartline already has committed in Brandon Inniss, Carnell Tate, Noah Rogers and Bryson Rodgers. If all goes according to plan, 2024 wide receiver recruiting could be equally as fruitful with premier targets Jeremiah Smith, Joshisa Trader, Micah Hudson, Ryan Pellum, Tyseer Denmark and Mylan Graham all showing significant interest in Ohio State. 

But you won’t find Hartline beating his chest about his recruiting prowess or accolades. Hartline believes the best approach to landing top-tier recruits is by being genuine and letting the prospects see what he and the school have to offer. 

“I think it probably always starts with being yourself,” Hartline said of his recruiting approach. “I think at the end of the day, you know, I don't want to trick anybody into doing anything … I don't want them to think I'm somebody I'm not. And those that appreciate that will pick Ohio State, the Buckeyes, our quarterbacks, our offense and our receiver room and we'll go down that road. 

“So being true to yourself, I think is really, really important. It's really easy to gear yourself to others because you have a job you want to get done. And you just got to make sure you're just being true to yourself.” 

How Hartline secures top talent in his wide receiver room year in and year out isn’t an exact science. But Hartline said Ohio State has a system for getting recruits to initially visit Columbus and what topics the coaching staff needs to cover on a prospect’s first, second and third visits to campus.

The first time a prospect and their family visit OSU, Hartline said he goes out of his way to ensure both parties understand what Ohio State is about and what he himself is about, which he hopes will give them a feeling of how he and OSU’s wide receiver room operate. Beyond that, the conversation Hartline has with each individual prospect varies, so there’s no specific blueprint Hartline follows in recruiting. 

“There's no narrative being spun here,” Hartline said. “It's like trying to coach every kid the same way. You shouldn't do that. You can be fair, but it's not going to be the same. Everyone's different. Everyone has different needs. Everyone has different focuses. So your ability to connect with those and identify those, I think kind of puts you on your right path.”

Hartline is hoping the 2022 recruiting class of Kaleb Brown, Kyion Grayes, Caleb Burton and Kojo Antwi will be his next group of star receivers, and they’ve made early strides on the field during preseason camp, with Brown and Grayes losing their black stripes so far.

“They're coming along,” Hartline said of the freshmen wideouts. “I think they got to keep putting on more weight, they got to keep learning the offense without making too many mistakes mentally. It's not about the ability, it's just, that we got to make sure we're cleaner. And, really just full circle, we got to be better in all aspects, in my opinion.” 

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