Column: Is Ohio State recruiting wide receivers too well?
Disclaimer: I apologize for the related tweets ahead, but twitter dot com was on fire this week
Brian Hartline had a 14-star week, signing two 5-star wide receivers in Carnell Tate and Brandon Inniss, and a 4-star wideout in Noah Rogers. This has become the norm in Columbus, with the former Buckeye and NFL vet flourishing in his role as wide receivers coach and newly minted passing game coordinator.
Hartline has signed or gained commitments from 14 top-100 WRs since taking over his position (full-time) in 2019. Furthermore, he has helped sign the six highest-rated WR recruits in program history and doubled TTUN’s 5-star WR total in just over a 24-hour period earlier this week… As in TTUN has signed one… ever!
We know that recruiting is part of Hartline’s job, but the ease with which he does it, makes it seem like a relaxing hobby. Many would say that he is the nation’s best recruiter, myself included. But does he stop there? Absolutely not… college football fans and NFL talent evaluators alike have witnessed his ability to develop players once they are on campus — Chris Olave, Garret Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Marvin Harrison Jr., and so on. So now the question becomes: How well can he juggle?
Hartline’s recruiting acumen is nothing new, but now he and Ohio State are really starting to see the fruits of his labor. Julian Fleming, Smith-Njigba, Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuka, and Jayden Ballard are all entering their second or third seasons in the program. Additionally, four 4-star recruits will be getting an opportunity as this year’s incoming freshman. All in addition to Tate, Inniss, Rogers, and only phonetically-related Bryson Rodgers currently committed to OSU as part of the 2023 class.
Thirteen highly-ranked and highly-coveted wide receivers could all be vying for playing time next year. JSN is the only receiver likely to leave (for the draft), so maybe Hartline ends up with 12 guys in his position room. That is more than an entire starting offense — not the number of WRs we will see on the field at any given time. So do the Buckeyes have a problem of too much or too many?
The answer, of course, is “No.” What they do is their work cut out for them. I mean that in terms of development, creativity, ego management, etc. But saying that an over-abundance of talent is a problem, is akin to saying that having too much money is a problem.
If that were the case, yes, you would need to learn how to manage said money, but it doesn’t make your life more difficult. I know there are exceptions and those who will say that if you have “too much” money, you are the problem… relax, that’s not what we’re talking about here.
The reality is that Hartline and Ohio State have a plethora of options and fallback plans. And in the current world of college football — with injuries, transfers, NIL opportunities, and flat-out misses — that is all you can ask for.
Because not all of these WRs are going to stay… or even honor their verbal commitment at all. Sorry, they just won’t. There are too many opportunities available to them, and not enough spots on the field, and it’s a good thing for those players to have options.
Coaches from other schools will be trying to pull them away from Columbus, whether that is “allowed” or not. Even if deemed illegal, unethical, against the rules, whatever — we already know that the NCAA will not step in to prevent poaching.
Additionally, some of these players will fall short of their ceiling(s) and/or suffer an unfortunate injury or two. The rest will stick around and attempt to perfect their craft in the presence of greatness… I may have allowed myself to get too hyped up with the GOAT talk, but give me a break, the Buckeyes just gained commitments from three of the top nine WRs in the 2023 class.
And let us not forget about Ryan Day here, either. The head coach has surely been involved in this process, and he is the man in charge — of the team and much of the offense. These WRs will need to impress Day and earn his trust as well. Especially since he is very hands-on with the quarterbacks, who work in tandem with all of the pass catchers. So they’ve got Day, Hartline, other coaches, and their teammates/peers… that’s a lot of people to impress and/or earn the trust of. It might be a lot to ask of these guys, but they chose Ohio State for a reason, and they should know what lies ahead.
If the dozen or so WRs who could potentially end up in Hartline’s room in 2023 want to face stiff competition, receive hard coaching, work tirelessly, and practice patience, Columbus is the place for them. That part doesn’t sound so fun, but they likely know the expectation(s) already. Success won’t come easy, but if the end goal is an NFL paycheck, the sacrifices are worth it. And OSU fans would be quick to point out that Hartline, Day, and others will teach and expect all of the above — but they are also extremely personable, fun to be around, wildly supportive, and clearly know a thing or two about sending talent to the next level.
So no, Ohio State does not have too many incoming wide receivers. They have an embarrassment of riches, and a lot of fun toys to potentially choose from, but Hartline and the other coaches can’t slow down. Turnover and attrition is only becoming more of an issue in college football, and an over-abundance of talent gives the Buckeyes a larger margin for error. Knowing these coaches, they are not content with all the stars in the world anyway, and that’s why we root for them.