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Brian Hartline provides some clarity on Ohio State’s wide receivers

The Buckeyes’ assistant coach is expecting a deep group this season.

NCAA Football: Tulane at Ohio State Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

“I think that the film’s going to tell me what I need to do, and in the end I’m responsive. We all know that the best players play, and based on what they’ve learned through their film. We’ll just see how time tells.”

- Brian Hartline on evaluating his wide receivers via Stephen Means,

It seems as though Ohio State’s main objective in the early going of spring practice is to figure out who their best players are. The same is true for all positions, but perhaps no other group is as deep or has as many options as Brian Hartline’s wide receiver corps. After leading an astonishing group of receivers a year ago in an interim position, Hartline will look to find a way to replicate that success with an entirely new group of guys in his first year as the full-time leader of the unit.

Speaking with the media following Wednesday’s practice, Hartline touched on some of his key areas of emphasis for the spring, the first of which being depth. With K.J. Hill featuring as the only returning starter, the Buckeyes have 10 receivers competing for time this season. With Hill likely owning the only guaranteed starting spot, Hartline discussed how he will take a look at the film and have his decisions regarding playing time be responsive to what he sees over the course of the offseason.

Another thing Hartline touched on is how he wants his seniors to get as many reps as possible in order to try and get as much experience on the field at one time as he can. To do this most effectively, Austin Mack has been moved to the Z receiver spot so that he and Binjimen Victor are no longer splitting reps. Outside those two guys battling for starting spots, Hartline also said he feels that Hill has the best hands on the team, and although he doesn’t possess the pure speed of Parris Campbell, he can be just as effective.

Ohio State will also continue the Urban Meyer ideology that is the H-back position, but it will continue to be more of a hybrid slot receiver as it was the past few seasons with Campbell. The H-back will still receive hand-offs and run sweep plays on occasion, but this season under Hartline and Ryan Day, the mindset will be that the position is still a receiver first over anything else. Hill will likely get the majority of reps in this role, with Jaelen Gill functioning as the No. 2 guy.

Finally, Hartline talked a bit about freshman Garrett Wilson. Hartline was immediately impressed by the young receiver straight from the get-go. He said that Wilson has done a phenomenal job both at the X and Z positions, showing a real passion for learning from the older guys and buying into the team culture. It would not be surprising for the freshman to see a good amount of reps in his very first season as a Buckeye if he continues along this path.

“Holtmann recruited extremely well and signed one of the best 2019 classes in all of college basketball and the best in the Big Ten. In fact the program is bringing in three of the top thirty-six recruits in the country according to the ESPN Top 100 — the only program to do so.”

- Phil Harrison via Buckeyes Wire, USA Today Sports

In his first two years as Ohio State’s head coach, Chris Holtmann has been even better than advertised. In both seasons at the helm for the Buckeyes, Holtmann managed to get an OSU team with extremely low expectations into the NCAA Tournament and even win both first-round games. He has done this despite rosters that did not feature nearly as much talent as top-tier Big Ten basketball schools and other NCAA Tournament teams. Next year, however, Holtmann will in all likelihood have his most talented roster yet.

While Ohio State’s season just came to an end only a few days ago, it is never too early to look ahead to next season. The Buckeyes’ 2020 roster will look a lot different from this year’s, as two of their top four scorers will have graduated in C.J. Jackson and Keyshawn Woods. Jackson averaged 12 points per game this past season, while Woods averaged a little over eight points per game in his one and only year with the program after transferring from Wake Forest.

Despite losing two seniors, OSU has a tremendous influx of talent on the way, bringing in three top-50 recruits (based on 247 Composite Rankings) in D.J. Carton (No. 28), Alonzo Gaffney (No. 42) and E.J. Liddell (No. 45). These three fresh faces, as well as a bunch of returning guys among the likes of their top-scorer Kaleb Wesson and best defender Luther Muhammad, should have next year’s Ohio State team in a battle for the top spot in the Big Ten.

Holtmann will have some options as to how to organize his rotation next season, but it is easy to speculate what the starting rotation could look like. The two guard spots will likely be handled by Carton and junior C.J. Walker. Carton, the No. 4 point guard in the 2019 class, is a good three-point shooter and has been regarded for his high basketball IQ. Walker, who sat out this past season after transferring from Florida State, started 34 of 35 games in his last season with the Noles, averaging eight points per game.

Andre Wesson will return as sort of a guard/forward hybrid at the three spot. The elder Wesson brother averaged just under nine points per game this season to go along with four rebounds per contest. Incoming freshmen Liddell or Gaffney will likely man the No. 4 spot, while Kaleb Wesson will return as the Buckeyes’ starting center after averaging 14.6 points per game this season to lead the team.

Ohio State will likely get a ton of production from their bench next season as well. As previously mentioned, Muhammad could provide a defensive spark off the bench as he continues to work on his offensive game, while guys like Musa Jallow and Duane Washington Jr. will add valuable athleticism and three-point shooting. Kyle Young will remain in the mix at forward, and Justin Ahrens and Jaedon LeDee could provide some change of pace in reserve roles.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day will be the keynote speaker on Dec. 9 as part of the Charlotte Touchdown Clubs’s 2019 Luncheon Speaker Series. Day will join big-time football names among the likes of Tiki Barber, Eric Dickerson, Bobby Knight, Brett Favre and Merril Hodge as a speaker leading up to the 25th Annual Bronko Nagurski Awards Banquet on Monday, Dec. 9.

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