Every Tuesday, Matt Hayes tackles the 10 hottest topics in the Big Ten …

1. The B1G Story

Ohio State has a problem with assistant coach Brian Hartline, and there’s no avoiding it.

Hartline, the team’s offensive coordinator and among the top young assistant coaches in college football, is in the middle of the fallout from a 2nd strange motor vehicle accident — and this time, the results could’ve been much worse.

According to police reports, Hartline wrecked his all terrain vehicle early Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after the Ohio State spring game. He and another male were riding on his property in Liberty Township, Ohio, when the ATV flipped and injured Hartline.

A 911 operator asked Hartline’s sister, Jaimie, if the men had been drinking, and Jaimie Hartline responded, “Yes, yes they have.” Hartline later admitted to police that he had been drinking.

Drinking and driving an ATV is disturbing on multiple fronts, but becomes more problematic considering Hartline’s history with driving accidents. Nearly 13 years ago, Hartline was playing for the Miami Dolphins when his truck hit a parked car on the interstate.

The Florida Highway Patrol couldn’t determine who was driving Hartline’s truck because it was abandoned on the highway, next to the Cadillac Escalade it hit.

According to the report, troopers went to Hartline’s home on the day of the crash, but a house guest said he wasn’t there. When police called Hartline’s phone, he didn’t answer — but his lawyer called back and said Hartline was uninjured.

Hartline claimed his truck 2 days later, but did so without submitting to an interview from FHP. He was eventually given a $115 citation for “failure to report a crash as the owner of a vehicle.”

It’s not that difficult to connect the dots. The next question: How does Ohio State respond to last weekend’s incident — knowing Hartline’s history?

No matter how you try to parse it, there’s a track record with Hartline and motor vehicle accidents. And none of it is good.

It most certainly isn’t a good look for an employee whose job is to coach and mentor young men. How can Ohio State take any stance against player behavior problems if it won’t do the same with coaches?

2. Do as I say, not as I do

Ohio State isn’t that far removed from the lies and half truths of former wide receivers coach Zach Smith and head coach Urban Meyer — and how their coverup forced Meyer to “retire” early at the top of his profession.

Meyer retired for “health” reasons after the 2018 season, sat out 2 years and took a failed shot in the NFL that lasted 13 games before he was fired for — I know this is going to shock everyone — more lies and half-truths.

Now the university is veering back into another lane of uncertainty — no pun intended — with Hartline. His job as offensive coordinator reaches numerous players, and coaches are inherently put in positions of “follow and learn from me.” They’re role models.

In this era of multi-billion dollar media rights deals and bloated coaching contracts — and players receiving a scholarship and a stipend in return for services rendered — you can’t ignore off-field problems from a coach who makes $1.6 million annually and whose job is to lead and develop players on and off the field.

Hartline replaced Smith as wide receivers coach when Smith was fired, and has been lauded by coach Ryan Day as the best recruiter in the nation and an elite position coach. Day gave Hartline OC and play-calling duties this offseason as a way to keep him in Columbus rather than see him leave for the NFL or another college job.

Now Day and the university have to decide how to make a statement with the latest Hartline incident.

3. Bad history, The Epilogue

It’s not a fireable offense, but it most certainly is worth a suspension. Day and the university must make it clear to Hartline, and other employees and players, that these incidents are how careers can end (at best) and/or how lives could be lost (at worst).

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It’s reckless and it’s dangerous, and it’s not how a coach with Hartline’s position and power — 1 step away from head coach — should be modeling behavior. If you want to be in this business, and you want to cash those huge paychecks, it’s more than just Xs and Os.

Again, Ohio State is 5 years removed from the Meyer fiasco, and can’t afford another festering problem. Day should make a statement now, suspend Hartline for a couple of games and get control of what’s important.

4. Where growth begins

Stop with the Drew Allar panic. The world doesn’t revolve around spring games.

Allar is the best quarterback on the Penn State roster, and the only reason coach James Franklin didn’t name him the starter after spring practice is because he’s following the coaching playbook to the letter.

Never tell a quarterback he has won the job and allow him to let up over the summer months — where team chemistry is built, and where quarterbacks can sharpen their focus on leadership and skills.

Franklin wants Allar to play well, but as important, he wants the team to rally around him. The former won’t be a problem, Allar just needs repetitions. The latter is the issue — and something Allar has to earn. The locker room isn’t going to automatically fall in line behind him because he can make every throw and because he’s a former 5-star. They have to believe in him, have to trust him.

Franklin not naming Allar his starter has nothing to do with ability. It has everything to do with intangibles that can make the difference between 10 wins and a New Year’s Six game, or 12 wins and a Playoff spot.

5. The Weekly 5

The top 5 Big Ten players in the NFL Draft, with positions, and odds for being selected the first player at that position.

1. WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State (-250): Despite the hamstring questions (and the 4.5 40), scouts are relying on spectacular game tape from 2021.

2. CB Devon Witherspoon, Illinois (-200): Has passed Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez and Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. in the last week to move into the No.1 spot.

3. OL Peter Skoronski, Northwestern (+110): He and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. have gone back and forth as the overall favorite.

4. LB Jack Campbell (+125): The top pure linebacker (not edge) in the draft.

5. QB CJ Stroud, Ohio State (+900): Bryce Young has moved to prohibitive favorite. Is Stroud No.2 now — or has Florida’s Anthony Richardson or Kentucky’s Will Levis moved ahead?

6. Your tape is your resume

An NFL scout analyzes a draft eligible Big Ten player. This week: Iowa TE Sam LaPorta.

“Big catch radius, long arms, soft hands and is more athletic than you think. He’s strong enough to stay on the field as an in-line (tight end), and he can flex out and be a mismatch. A hard, punishing runner after the catch. Don’t confuse the Iowa offense of the last 2 years with his ability to play in this league. He had 111 catches in a prehistoric offense with terrible quarterback play. He will be a star in our league.”

7. Powered Up

This week’s Power Poll, and 1 big thing: biggest draft bust of the Super Bowl era.

1. Michigan: WR David Terrell, Bears. The No. 8 overall pick in 2001 played in 53 career games and caught 128 passes.

2. Ohio State: DE Vernon Gholston, Jets. The No. 6 overall pick in 2008 played 3 seasons (5 career starts) in the NFL, and never recorded a sack.

3. Penn State: RB Ki-Jana Carter, Bengals. Injuries crushed the potential of the No. 1 overall pick in 1995, who started 14 games in 5 seasons.

4. Wisconsin: DT Wendell Bryant, Cardinals. The No. 12 overall pick in 2002 played just 3 seasons and started just 9 games — with 44 career tackles and 1.5 sacks.

5. Minnesota: DB Willie Middlebrooks, Broncos. The No. 24 overall pick in 2000 started 2 games in 5 seasons with 0 INTs and 7 passed defended.

6. Iowa: OT Robert Gallery, Raiders. The No.2 overall pick in 2004 was drafted as a left tackle but couldn’t play the position in the NFL, and played nearly all of his 8 seasons as an average guard.

7. Illinois: QB Jeff George, Colts. The No. 1 overall pick in 1990 had 27,602 career passing yards and 154 TDs. By the time he retied in 2001, he became the first QB picked No. 1 overall to not win a Super Bowl or be selected to the Pro Bowl.

8. Purdue: WR Larry Burton, Browns. The No. 7 overall pick in 1975 played 5 seasons and had 25 career starts and 44 catches.

9. Maryland: DT Pete Koch, Bengals. The No. 16 overall pick in 1984 played 5 seasons, started 22 games and had 8 sacks.

10. Michigan State: Tony Mandarich, Colts. The No. 2 overall pick in 1989 spent 6 seasons in the NFL, and was followed in the draft by 3 Hall of Famers: Barry Sanders (3rd overall), Derick Thomas (4th) and Deion Sanders (5th).

11. Nebraska: RB Lawrence Phillips, Rams. The No. 6 overall pick in 1996 was cut during his 2nd season, when the number of days he spent in jail (23) surpassed his career starts (20).

12. Indiana: OT Kevin Allen, Eagles. The No. 9 overall pick in 1985 played less than 2 seasons in the league before being banned after he was imprisoned for sexual assault.

13. Rutgers: OT Anthony Davis, 49ers. The No. 11 overall pick played 6 seasons and started 72 games, and was a serviceable right tackle before leaving the game to let his “brain and body heal.”

14. Northwestern:  DT Luis Castillo, Chargers. The No. 28 pick began his career with a positive drug test at the Combine, and he slipped to the end of the 1st round. He played 7 years with 19 career sacks.

8. Ask and you shall receive

Matt: Do you think the transfer portal in college athletics had put coaches on the clock, where they are now expected to achieve success faster than before? — Chad Ruffner.


It’s a huge factor in the process now, no question. As big: the more than a billion dollars annually in media rights for the Big Ten and SEC. If you’re not winning, the money is there to buy you out and move to the next guy.

The worst thing that could’ve happened to the coaching community is TCU’s run to the Playoff. The Frogs won 5 games in 2021, were 16-16 the previous 3 seasons and had plateaued under former coach Gary Patterson. Sonny Dykes arrived in Fort Worth in 2022, hit the portal and developed the players on the roster and won 12 games.

TCU made the Playoff, and beat Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl semifinal before losing to Georgia in the national title game. Every president and athletic director sees that season and asks why — why can’t we do that? And why are we paying our guy $5 million a year for 8 wins?

The reality is the portal can help teams significantly upgrade, even if only for a season. There’s a delicate balance between using it and abusing it — and setting a tone with high school recruits that you value the portal more than developing players.

9. Numbers

1. Amorion Walker played in 3 games last season at Michigan, and redshirted as a long and lanky, 6-foot-3 wideout who could grow into his frame and become a factor in the pass game.

Then he switched positions this spring, and now he’s the projected starter as 1 of 2 cornerbacks. He had 1 career catch in 3 games in 2022, but the staff feels like he will use his length and speed — and aggressive hands — to make an easy transition to the defense.

10. Quote to note

Michigan State coach Mel Tucker: “Our culture continues to be cemented. We are going to add some players in June, and we are looking forward to using those guys to help build our team to be stronger and more competitive.”