Morning Conversational: What Did KJ Hill Learn From Brian Hartline?

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Today’s Topic: What Did KJ Hill Learn From Brian Hartline?

KJ Hill’s first career reception as an Ohio State Buckeye was a 47-yard touchdown in 2016 as a redshirt freshman against Bowling Green.

It was a sign of very good things to come.

Since that first catch, he has added 143 more and increased his production each season.

As a co-starter in 2017, Hill led the Buckeyes with 56 receptions and finished second with 549 yards receiving.

Last season as a fourth-year junior, however, he became a much more dangerous receiver. He finished second on the team with 70 receptions for 885 yards, trailing his co-starter Parris Campbell in both categories.

Hill was certainly the beneficiary of Ohio State’s improved passing attack. The Buckeyes threw the ball more with quarterback Dwayne Haskins, and he was able to put the ball in a position for his receivers to make plays after the catch.

The increased usage of mesh routes over the middle of the field also allowed for Hill to catch and run with safeties and linebackers trailing him.

His 15 receptions of 20 yards or more last season was the most for a Buckeye since Devin Smith had 18 in 2014. Only four players in the Big Ten had more 20-yard catches last year than Hill.

The credit for Hill’s uptick in numbers can go in a number of places, but one place Hill is sure to credit is his position coach, Brian Hartline.

“I feel like my game went through the roof with Coach Hartline,” Hill said this spring. “It was always the little things. And when the little things are corrected, you turn into a whole different player.”

In 2017, Hill was a tremendous possession receiver and could be counted on to get open in shallow zones, but he wasn’t able to maximize those opportunities. He averaged less than 10 yards per catch that season.

In 2018, however, with just 14 more catches than the season before, he produced 336 more yards.

While some will simply chalk that up to OSU’s offense, Hill will tell you that he wouldn’t have been able to do it without what he learned from Hartline.

Being a productive receiver is an on-the-field and off-the-field process, and Hartline provided the path for both last year.

“The thing with him, he shows us physically,” Hill said. “He doesn’t just tell us with words, he shows us physically. You know the big picture he’s saying because he’s done it. He shows us examples on and off the field, in the meeting rooms, and just how to be a pro. More off the field. Just taking care of your business, being early to meetings, being different.