Hartline has hectic time with Miami

Published 4:09 am Monday, August 31, 2009

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Brian Hartline likes to move fast and take risks, things the Miami Dolphins rookie receiver has done plenty of this year.

He skipped his final year of eligibility at Ohio State after catching only 21 passes last season and still managed to get drafted in the fourth round by Miami. He earned his degree in communications, got married and moved to South Florida without anything guaranteed in training camp — not even a roster spot.

‘‘It’s been busy and hectic and a lot of work,’’ Hartline said. ‘‘With training camp, the first goal coming in was to make the roster. Then after a couple of weeks, just being a competitor, I jumped the goal up. I thought. ’Why not? Why can’t I start?’’’

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That’s one of many questions surrounding Hartline that he’s beginning to answer.

Hartline had three catches for a team-high 79 yards while starting in Miami’s 10-6 exhibition win against Tampa Bay on Thursday night, including a 54-yard reception that setup the Dolphins’ only touchdown. He’s making a strong push to start in the regular-season opener opposite fellow Ohio State grad Ted Ginn Jr., helping shore up a position that has been one of Miami’s weakest.

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said he will wait until after the final exhibition game Thursday night at New Orleans before deciding on the second starter. The competition between Hartline and Greg Camarillo for the spot next to Ginn is perhaps the biggest battle left in Miami’s preseason.

‘‘I am looking for a guy that can gobble up yards out there that is a little bit opposite of (Ginn),’’ Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said of the final receiver spot. ‘‘If you can get a guy to make some bigger plays there on that other side, I think that helps you.’’

The Dolphins believe there might not be a better compliment to Ginn than Hartline, who served a similar role at Ohio State. The pair teamed up to help the Buckeyes make the BCS national title game in 2007, which they lost to Florida.

A revamped Buckeyes offense with run-oriented freshman Terrelle Pryor last season limited Hartline. The idea that Hartline would leave the school after that wasn’t a surprise. Everyone around him only thought it would be for another school, not the NFL yet.

‘‘It was a risk for some, I guess,’’ Hartline said. ‘‘I’m still out here every day trying to prove myself, trying to compete for a position on this team. I still have a lot of work ahead.’’

The Dolphins will likely be thin again this season at receiver.

Ginn, Hartline, Camarillo and Davone Bess are the only receivers that seem certain to make the roster. While rookies Patrick Turner and James Robinson are competing with Brandon London for the last spot or two.

Without a proven No. 1 receiver in the bunch, the Dolphins will need a collective effort or face another season with little depth at the position.

‘‘I look at it as we have five No. 1s, and whoever we take to the game with us, that’s who the guy is who’s going to get the ball,’’ quarterback Chad Pennington said. ‘‘I think he’s done a really good job of coming in and learning what to do and right now he’s learning how to do it. He makes plays. He’s made some sticky catches out here in practice.’’

How Hartline has found success is another story.

His teammates already consider him a pest, a guy that is always in a veteran’s ear trying to absorb information. Rookie receivers rarely make a big impact, so Hartline said he is trying — like seemingly everything else in the past year — to speed up the transition.

And with Camarillo coming off major knee surgery, Hartline has a chance to be on the field right away. So he only wants to make sure he’s ready when the time comes, which has been sooner than expected this year.

‘‘We’re still working to get that connection to the point where I run a certain route and Chad knows where I’m going to be,’’ Hartline said. ‘‘I’m critical of myself. I would say I’m content with where things are. Not happy.’’