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Saturday, August 23, 2008
The life of Brians

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- What began as a benign comment quickly turned into a playful shouting match of slams across the Ohio State media room.

Sitting at the main interview table Friday afternoon, Buckeyes wide receiver Brian Hartline was asked to liken his skills to those of Ohio State's other Brian, senior wideout Brian Robiskie.

"Anything I can do, he can do," Hartline said, "and anything he can do, I can do."

When informed of Hartline's claim, Robiskie, sitting in the corner, shook his head.

"He can't do what I do," Robiskie said quietly, looking at his teammate.

"He cannot do what I can do!" Robiskie repeated, hoping to get Hartline's attention. "He can't do it! It can't happen!"

Hartline never heard him. When a messenger -- OK, it was me -- relayed Robiskie's assertion, Hartline immediately countered.

"Robo, what can you do?" Hartline asked loudly.

"Huh? Robiskie replied. "What can I do? I can be on the sidelines."

"Yeah, you can stay on the sidelines, hurt," Hartline chirped, referring to a shoulder injury that has kept Robiskie out of portions of the preseason. "I can't do that.

Robiskie said his shoulder is fine, and when Ohio State opens the season Aug. 30 against Youngstown State, the dynamic receiver tandem known as the Brians will be fully intact. The team's two top wideouts combined for 107 receptions, 1,629 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns last season, their first as full-time starters.

Both players are 6-foot-3, both joined the team in 2005 and both can punish defenses down the field, but there's some debate about how similar they really are.

Robiskie, a member of Ohio State's 4x100 relay team in track, plays outside receiver and hooked up with quarterback Todd Boeckman for several plays of 50 yards or longer last season. Hartline brings an intrepid attitude to the slot receiver spot, taking punishment and dishing it back when he goes over the middle.

"We've played with each other so much, worked with each other so much that there's not too many things that really differ in our games, said Robiskie, who led Ohio State with 935 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last year. "The only thing that might jump out at me is that he plays inside in the slot where I might play a lot outside. That's not to say that he couldn't come outside and play.

Hartline isn't so sure about Robiskie's versatility.

"He definitely couldn't play the slot," Hartline said. "I can. I can play on the outside, too. It's fun, though. We're pretty fun-loving guys. I think I've rubbed off on him enough so that he'll stay a little loosened up."

Robiskie was Boeckman's top big play option last season, but Hartline should be more of a threat this fall after a strong preseason. Hartline often gets compared to former Ohio State wideout Anthony Gonzalez, who was overshadowed by Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn in 2005 before nearly matching Ginn's production in 2006.

"It's a pretty fair comparison," Hartline said. "Gonzo got better, [quarterback] Troy [Smith] got better, I'm getting better, Todd's getting better. Once I start making some plays for [Boeckman], he'll trust me even more. ... The same plays we ran with Troy and Gonzo are the same plays we're running now."

Hartline might make a bigger name for himself this fall, but odds are he'll always be mentioned with Robiskie, much like Buckeyes linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman on the defensive side. But the wideouts don't mind getting grouped together.

As they showed Friday, it's hard to keep them separated.

So how different are they?

"They're completely different players, completely different attitudes, completely different personalities," wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell said. "The only thing the same is their name."