Ohio State head coach Ryan Day has confirmed he is considering turning over play-calling duties to freshly-promoted offensive coordinator Brian Hartline in preparation for the 2023 season.
During the lead-up to the Rose Bowl on Jan. 2, ESPN’s Kirk Hebrstreit first reported Day was leaning toward removing himself from the role in order to spend more time as an overall manager of the program. Following outgoing offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson’s departure to Tulsa and the subsequent announcement of Hartline’s promotion, it has been widely speculated Hartline would be the natural successor to the role.
Speaking with the media on Wednesday, Day outlined the plan for Hartline heading into spring practice and why the timing is appropriate to consider a change.
“What we’re going to do is go through the spring and create some environments where we can call (the offense), and then we’ll come up for air at the end of the spring and kind of figure out what that dynamic looks like heading into the preseason and the season,” Day said. “So we won’t decide any of that now, but we’ll certainly give (Hartline) an opportunity to call it this spring and see how that goes.”
Day alluded to the lengthy list of responsibilities as a head coach, some of which may not get enough attention from the leader of the program during the season, as a primary reason for delegating the play calling elsewhere.
“I think, year after year, you sit down and you’ll evaluate everything in the program,” he said. “You certainly evaluate where college football is and the demands of the job, the way it is now as opposed to two years ago or four years ago and when we started. And you have to look at time management. I think during the offseason, it’s no problem at all. At the beginning of the season, it’s still pretty good. As we get to the middle of the season, the end of the season, I feel like there are times when I have to manage my time a little bit better and make sure that, as a head coach, there’s enough of a presence going around the building late in the season.
“And so, trying to figure out how to best remedy that, just making sure that I’m evaluating myself as the head coach the right way. There are a lot of different things that are changing on a daily basis, and so whether that’s giving up the play calling and letting Brian do it or not, we’ll decide that here in the next few months probably.”
Of course, Day’s confidence in Hartline to potentially handle the added responsibility has also factored heavily into the decision to consider making a change, and that confidence hasn’t been unwarranted given Hartline’s success with every promotion in the program.
After joining the staff as a graduate assistant, Hartline was thrust into the receivers coach position ahead of the 2019 season and has since developed into, perhaps, the game’s premier position coach as Ohio State continues to churn out first-round draft picks at the position.
Last season, Hartline added the title of passing game coordinator, and the Ohio State offense didn’t skip a beat. At every turn, Hartline has met the challenge and exceeded expectations, leading Day to believe the same will be true should he ultimately decide to turn the play-calling responsibilities over to him.
“This year, he took on the role of passing game coordinator, which challenged him about learning protections, challenged him about learning the run game, and I thought he did a great job of that as well … His knowledge of offensive football is excellent. And now he has the opportunity to take that next step in his progression,” Day said.
Day added he feels comfortable stepping away from calling plays given the quality of the entire offensive staff.
“I think (offensive line coach) Justin Frye as the run game coordinator will do an excellent job in there,” Day said. “And that’s a very important job, to be able to put together the run game, put together protections, and tie those two things together. And I’m also going to be still very much involved with it. I’m going to be in there every day, and we’ll figure out how that shakes out.”
With much still left to be decided as Ohio State draws closer to spring practice, Hartline is continuing to operate as if every possibility is still on the table. For now, he’s simply looking forward to simulating as many game-like scenarios as possible in the upcoming practices, knowing the results will be beneficial to the program as a whole.
“I think just in general, in spring, the more opportunities we get the chance to play it as real as possible for myself, young quarterbacks, and everybody else, I think it serves everybody well,” Hartline said.
As for his opportunity to showcase his acumen for dialing up plays this spring, Hartline said he’s confident he’ll be able to do the job well, especially considering those around him who will play a part in a possible transition.
“I think coach Day has always done it at an elite level,” Hartline said. “We’ve always produced, from a production standpoint offensively, at an elite level. But the support that I have around me really empowers me. My confidence comes from having them, so I’d be very confident.”