No one would confuse Brian Robiskie for Felix Ungar, or Brian Hartline for Oscar Madison for that matter – unless, of course, Robiskie were to spear a cigar with the end of his umbrella.
However, with a little prompting, it isn’t hard to imagine the No. 7 Ohio State football team’s top two wideouts as two different personalities despite being known commonly as “The Brians.”
“They are a little bit of the odd couple,” receivers coach Darrell Hazell said.
Think about it: There’s Hartline, playing the game with an all-out attitude and a reckless abandon more often seen by linebackers. Then there’s Robiskie, who plays the receiver position with a smoothness of a player like Lynn Swann.
Or does he?
“He thinks he’s smooth,” Hartline said. “He’s not smooth.”
At that, Hartline exhibits another facet of the relationship between the two. Not only have the Buckeyes leading wideouts combined for 1,474 yards and 15 touchdowns, they are extremely close – a relationship that allows the two to slice each other open with barbs as easily as they are able to carve open opposing defenses.
“They’re extremely tight,” Hazell said. “They kid each other all the time. They are really close to one another and it’s really fun to watch them grow.”
“Those two are always together,” quarterback Todd Boeckman said. “They know each other inside and out, they know how to handle themselves on the field and off the field.”
They’ve handled each other extremely well on the field when it comes to production.
Robiskie, a junior, leads the Buckeyes with 48 catches on the year for 864 yards and 10 touchdowns. His 78.5 receiving yards per game are good for fifth in the Big Ten, while his 18.0 yards per catch are the most of any player who is in the top 10 in the league in either catches or yards per game.
That’s not all the Chagrin Falls, Ohio, native has been able to deliver.
“He does so many great things for us,” Boeckman said. “He leads by example. Even when he's not getting the ball, he's making that extra block, he lets his body out on the line. He does so many great things out there and he's not afraid to get the football.”
Robiskie has been involved in a number of important plays for the Buckeyes this year. His 68-yard touchdown reception against Washington pulled Ohio State out of a 7-3 hole in the second half, then his 52-yard grab against Minnesota was one for the highlight reels. It’s no mistake, Hazell said, that it is often Robiskie who Boeckman has a connection with when it comes to the deep ball.
“He’s probably got one of the best hand-eye coordinations for the long ball that I’ve seen,” Hazell said of Robiskie, who has five catches for 40 or more yards on the year. “It’s phenomenal how he tracks the ball on the long ball and contorts his body in crazy ways and still focuses on the stripes on the ball.”
As for Hartline, the sophomore from North Canton, Ohio, has stepped seamlessly into the slot position owned by Anthony Gonzalez a year ago. On the season, Hartline has 45 catches for 610 yards and five touchdowns.
“I didn’t honestly know what to expect in terms of actual play,” Hazell said. “I knew he is as competitive a guy as I’ve ever coached in 22 years. He wants to win at everything, it doesn’t matter what it is.”
Hartline isn’t just a pretty wideout afraid of contact. He’s won the Jack Tatum hit of the week award in each of his two seasons on the field – including after the Nov. 3 Wisconsin game in which he laid a devastating block – and plays the game with a frenetic energy that never stops.
Just the type of performance one would expect from a receiving corps replacing Gonzalez and Ted Ginn Jr.
“They came into the year thinking they had to prove something, you know?” Hazell said.