Skull Session: Brian Hartline Will Shine As OC, There Will Be New Blood in Jim Knowles' Safety-Driven Defense and Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson Are Who We Thought They Were

By Chase Brown on January 19, 2023 at 5:00 am
Brian Hartline

Ohio State men's basketball has now lost five consecutive games.

I don't know what to tell you guys. Things are pretty grim for the Basketbucks, and Chris Holtmann has some work to do.

Despite that, let's have a good Thursday, shall we?

 HELP FROM HARTLINE. When Ryan Day promoted Brian Hartline to be Ohio State's offensive coordinator last week, I would venture to say 99.99% of Buckeye Nation had a positive review of the decision. The other 0.01% were internet trolls who didn't believe the words they were saying.

Why were the reviews for Hartline's promotion so positive? Well, that's easy. His track record as a recruiter and developer has made him a fan favorite for those who bleed scarlet and gray. Following Kevin Wilson's departure to become the next head coach of Tulsa, the common belief was that it was only natural that Hartline takes over the reins of the program's offense.

Still, a question remains for Hartline and the Buckeyes: What kind of offensive coordinator will he be for Ohio State in 2023 and beyond? I see three options, with the third being the most likely outcome.

  1. Hartline is 100% the offensive coordinator with no oversight from Day.
  2. Hartline is responsible for game planning, recruiting, and development while Day calls plays.
  3. Hartline is responsible for game planning, recruiting, development and calls plays with Day's oversight.

I think option No. 3 is where Hartline, Day and Ohio State's offense will be in the future because it feels like the next step in Day's evolution as a head coach of the Buckeyes.

While an elite play-caller in college football – is this a hot take? –  if Day hands over the keys to Hartline and takes on a more CEO-like role as head coach, I think it will help the program tremendously. It could even be the difference between Ohio State winning a national championship in the years to come or remaining on the outside looking in as they have since 2014.

FOX college football analyst Joel Klatt explained that thought further on his most recent episode of "The Joel Klatt Show," which was released earlier this week:

"This is a big moment for Ryan Day and yet it's something I feel like he thinks is necessary. In modern college football – the last 20 to 25 years – it is exceedingly rare to crown a national champion whose offensive plays were called by the head coach. In fact, in 25 years, I can only count one, and that's Jimbo Fisher, who called plays for Florida State and Jameis Winston when they won the championship (in 2013). You have to go back to Tom Osborne in the 90s and Steve Spurrier, who I believe won four consecutive titles. Since then, it's only been Jimbo Fisher."


"We've had some great offensive minds (in college football) recently. Day, Lincoln Riley – first at Oklahoma and now at USC – are running into the exact same problem, like, 'Hey, your defense is not good enough, your defense is not good enough.' You can only score so many points and gain so many yards without your defense being good enough. Ryan is dealing with that because, in the last few years, Ohio State's defense has hurt the team in big moments. It hasn't been the offense that has let them down. Now, Ryan can spread himself over the entire team. He can now do what Brian Hartline can do, which is bring a greater recruiting emphasis to the entire team, which in the day and age of the transfer portal is an important piece for every head coach."

An offense that will presumably stay right on track with recent success? An opportunity for the defense to receive extra attention and finally meet the level of the offense? And, historically speaking, a better chance for Ohio State to win a national championship?

I'm in. Are you?

 SAFETY-DRIVEN DEFENSE. Dan Hope wrote a phenomenal article about Tanner McCalister that was featured on our main page on Wednesday. It detailed McCalister's heart behind transferring to Ohio State, and how he is thankful he chose to be a Buckeye, believing it helped him greatly improve his stock before the 2023 NFL draft.

But there was also much more to the article than meets the eye, primarily with what McCalister had to say about Ohio State's safety room in 2023 and beyond.

“I saw Lathan coming back, and that's a really good safety. That's my guy. And you got guys like Sonny Styles who's gonna come on the scene, he's a really big body, I think he can do a lot of things close to the box and even in space, so I'm excited,” McCalister said. “I'm excited to see what those guys do. I mean, those are my brothers now, so we're gonna stay in touch for a really long time. And Kye Stokes as well, it was fun watching him grow. And I think he'll continue to grow and become a really good player. And then even some of the young guys I was able to meet that are coming in now, I think this year is gonna be really fun just to see guys develop even more, and hopefully that back end is flying around making plays and picking balls off.”

*Raises singular eyebrow* Sonny Styles and Kye Stokes, you say?

We all know how talented Lathan Ransom is at safety. His story of recovering from a broken leg in the 2022 Rose Bowl only to become a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist with 74 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and one interception this past season has been well-documented. It's fair to assume he'll be an integral piece to the Buckeyes' defense in 2023.

And while we don't really know how talented Styles and Stokes will be at the collegiate level, we can certainly rely on what we've seen on film from the rising sophomores and what coaches have said about them to this point.

 DEVELOPED HERE. Ohio State's #DevelopedHere motto keeps improving with each year that passes, mainly because the Buckeyes keep sending absolute dudes to the NFL with each year that passes.

The latest products of the NFL factory based in Columbus were wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, and, folks, they were pretty darn good at the football thing this past season. Who would have thought?

This week, Olave and Wilson were listed as two of six finalists for the NFL's Rookie of the Year Award, along with New York Jets cornerback Sauce Gardner, Detroit Lions defensive end Aiden Hutchinson and Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker and cornerback Tariq Woolen.

The six ROTY candidates are a head above the rest of the 2022 draft class. But even within that distinguished group – the group within the group, if you will – Olave and Wilson are headliners. According to ESPN's NFL analysts, the former Buckeyes were the third and fourth-best rookies in the 2022-23 season behind Gardner and Hutchinson. Here is what those analysts find remarkable in them:

No. 3 - Chris Olave

Stats: 72 catches, 1,042 yards, 4 TDs

Why he's here: Despite playing without a great quarterback, Olave posted more than 1,000 yards and became a go-to target with the Saints. Receiver is one of the hardest positions to transition from college to pro and have immediate success, but he proved he's a player the Saints can build around. His 14.5 yards per catch ranked fourth among rookies, and he had just one drop all year. - Matt Miller

Going forward: Olave had 78 more targets and 44 more receptions than the next New Orleans wide receiver, so the Saints need to find a way to get him some help and take a little of the focus off him. But even without a clear No. 2 receiver on the field, Olave authored just the third 1,000-yard season for a rookie in franchise history. There's no reason more won't follow if he gets a little stronger, allowing him to win even more often on contested catches. - Jeff Legwold.

No. 4 - Garrett Wilson

Stats: 83 catches, 1,103 yards, 4 TDs

Why he's here: Wilson has quickly shown that he can be a No. 1 option in an NFL offense. He managed to produce without any type of consistency under center, which is the sign of a big-time talent at the position. Wilson is a sudden and creative route runner who also has the flexibility to contort his body to make difficult catches. His 56 first-down catches led all rookies. - Jordan Reid

Going forward: Wilson can be a star in this league -- if the Jets find an answer at the quarterback position. He is an easy and sudden mover at every level of the route tree. And Wilson has the dynamic ability to create game-changing plays. - Matt Bowen

Again, who would have thought? There's no way two standout receivers recruited and developed by Brian Hartline would be studs in the NFL, right?

Ohio State will have plenty of fun using the #DevelopedHere motto for the 2023 prospects, too, I'm sure. C.J. Stroud, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Paris Johnson Jr., Zach Harrison and so on. And in 2024, oooooooooooweee, when Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka will be draft-eligible, the motto will keep on gettin' better.

 THIS AND THAT. Ohio State on BTN has been blessing the Twitter feed with highlights from some of the Buckeyes' best players in 2022, namely Tommy Eichenberg and Emeka Egbuka. I had fun watching them, so I figured it would be good to pass them along so we can all have fun watching them together.

First, here is Mr. Eichenberg's reel. Tommy Two Thumbs might mess around and win the Butkus Award in 2023. Look out.

Second, we have Egbuka's Hoop Mixtape. Emeka Egbuka quietly had one of the best years from an Ohio State receiver in program history this past season with 74 catches for 1,151 yards and 10 touchdowns across 13 games. Is that good?

The answer to my question is "Yes," by the way. Ramzy Nasrallah wrote about how good Egbuka's year was for the Buckeyes, among many other things, in his weekly Situational on Wednesday.

Another thing that makes this blurb the "This and That" section is that Ohio State women's basketball's Jacy Sheldon hasn't played since November because of a foot injury. However, the 5-foot-10 guard is still a projected top-five pick in The Athletic's WNBA mock draft released this week.

Sabreena Merchant writes:

I’d feel better about this pick if Sheldon had played since November. But coach Kevin McGuff is indicating that she’s on track to return, and as long as Sheldon doesn’t look like a shell of herself in March, the track record from the last three seasons is enough to get her to No. 5. Chicago will need a new off-ball guard soon, whether that’s this season or whenever Allie Quigley chooses to retire, and Sheldon is the best prospect on the board. She’s a dynamic scorer, can get into the lane and finish, and handles the ball well as a primary or secondary playmaker. Sheldon has made 35 percent of her 3s and 84 percent of her free throws at Ohio State, so she projects as a quality shooter in the W. She’s been an active defender at the top of the Buckeyes’ press and a good team defender in the half-court as well, though she’ll need work on guarding the pick-and-roll.

My initial thoughts are this: Good for Sheldon because that rocks. My following thoughts: Ohio State women's basketball is the No. 2 team in the country, and Sheldon has only played in five games this season. When she returns, this team will be very, very scary.

My last thing is this. Before Ohio State men's basketball lost to Nebraska, 63-60, on Wednesday, the Buckeyes were one of the "last four bye teams" in ESPN's Bracketology, created by Joe Lunardi.

The loss against Nebraska, of course, doesn't help Ohio State's standing. We'll see where Lunardi has the Buckeyes in his next Bracketology. Hopefully, the losing streak will be over by then.

 SONG OF THE DAY. "Life's Been Good" by Joe Walsh.

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