With Smith Dismissed, Ohio State’s Offense Moves Onward

By Jeff Rapp, July 29th, 2018

It’s hards to imagine a press release being more terse than this:

“Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer has announced the termination of wide receiver’s coach Zach Smith. Coaching staff adjustments will be announced at a later date.”

That’s how the week began for Meyer, Smith and the Ohio State football program. University officials probably figured there was no reason to go into any more detail since the subject was very sensitive: There were multiple allegations regarding Smith and domestic abuse. Plus, Meyer was about to face the music at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago and no doubt would be asked repeatedly about the development.

Smith was charged with criminal trespassing after a dispute with his ex-wife, Courtney Smith, in May. He was also investigated in a dispute with his then-pregnant wife in 2009 when he was a member of Meyer’s staff at Florida, according to ESPN.

Three days after an Ohio judge issued a protection order that forbids him from getting within 500 feet of his ex-wife, Smith was out of a job.

While addressing the firing of Smith, his WRs coach throughout his tenure at OSU, Meyer intimated that the decision was agonizing. Still, the coach has very clear zero-tolerance stances on mistreatment of women and felt he had to make the move.

That was the first problem. The second was just as clear: Who, with the 2018 season beckoning, would Meyer be able to hire to fill the sudden void on his coaching staff.

Speculation quickly turned to Brian Hartline, despite the fact the candidate had logged just one year as a coach at any level, serving as OSU’s quality control assistant with the offense last season. By week’s end, Meyer made that exact move, tabbing the ex-Buckeye wideout as his guy. The university also announced third-year program assistant Corey Dennis was promoted to the position of senior quality control coach.

Hartline, of course, was the headliner in that double move. He was a productive receiver from 2005-08 for former head coach Jim Tressel and went on to a seven-year NFL career. He takes over a veteran receiving corps that has been a source of both joy and frustration in recent years.

Hartline, though, has been hired on an interim level, meaning he will have to prove his worth as a full-time assistant rather quickly.

Dennis, meanwhile, will assist offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Ryan Day this season after working for two seasons with the wide receivers as a graduate assistant coach.

“As I said in Chicago, I am very confident with the individuals on this coaching staff and both Brian and Corey are quality young men,” Meyer said. “I anticipate both of them doing well with their new responsibilities.”

Hartline certainly can sell preparing his mentees for the NFL. He played in 104 games as a professional with 73 starts, 344 career receptions, 4,766 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. His best seasons came in 2012 and 2013, when he combined to catch 150 passes for 2,099 yards for the Dolphins. He caught 30 or more passes in each of his seven NFL seasons.

Now 31, Hartline also knows what it takes to win at a high level. In his time as an OSU player, the Buckeyes won four Big Ten championships and advanced to the BCS National Championship Game following the 2006 and ’07 seasons.

In 2007, he caught a career-best 52 passes for 694 yards and six touchdowns. Hartline’s career numbers include 90 catches, 1,429 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Hartline graduated from Ohio State in 2007 with his degree in communications. He and his wife, Kara, have a young son, Brayden.

Dennis is a 2014 graduate of Georgia Tech with a degree in business administration, and he has his master’s in sports management from Ohio State. He played in 54 games for coach Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jacket teams that won two Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division titles and played in four bowl games.

Dennis was recruited to Georgia Tech as a receiver, but he also played in the defensive secondary and on special teams between 2011 and 2014.

A high school receiver and quarterback for his Troy, Ala., hometown team Charles Henderson High, Dennis was the first player in school history to rush and pass for more than 1,000 yards when he did so as a senior in 2010.

Dennis and his wife, Nicki, have a young son, Troy.