COLUMBUS — When Ohio State clashes with Iowa Saturday, the Hawkeyes will start a quarterback from the Cleveland area, a wide receiver from near Youngstown, and a defensive back from Fostoria.
The strong hint of Buckeye genes on the Hawkeyes' roster will continue on the sidelines at Kinnick Stadium, where 10 more Ohioans from Cincinnati, Xenia, Toledo, Monclova, and Cleveland will stand ready.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has harvested talent from Ohio to build this year's team — and every other one in his 12 years with the Hawkeyes. Ferentz said he simply goes where the players are.
“If you look at the Big Ten rosters, there are a lot of good players from Ohio,” Ferentz said. “There's a lot of good players, and [Ohio State] can't take them all. It's like Florida and Texas. They only have so many spots. Everybody else has a chance to go in and get some good players.”
Ferentz said the reality of football life in the state that derived its nickname from Sauk chieftain Black Hawk is that the population base is not substantial enough to turn out prolific numbers of Division I level talent.
“Our biggest challenge is our state population,” Ferentz said. “The high school football here is tremendous, but we only have three million people in our entire state. Between 80 and 90 percent of the time we're recruiting in someone else's state, which makes it a challenge.”
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi is from Lake Catholic High School in Mentor, which is coincidentally the hometown of Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. Ferentz said he was fortunate to spirit the 6-foot-4, 230-pound Stanzi out of Ohio.
“Ricky Stanzi is one of the top quarterbacks in the country, and fortunately, we were able to recruit him,” Ferentz said. “That spot was already taken at Ohio State, and I know they weren't involved in the recruitment [of Stanzi]. That's a good thing.”
The Hawkeyes will also start senior wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who was a standout performer at perennial Ohio powerhouse Cardinal Mooney.
The second-leading tackler on the Iowa defense is sophomore Micah Hyde, who was the Ohio Division IV offensive player of the year and a first-team all-state quarterback two years ago as a senior at Fostoria.
Iowa's backup fullback is redshirt freshman Brad Rogers (5-10, 215), a former two-way standout at Toledo's Central Catholic, while B.J. Lowery from Cincinnati Hughes plays behind Hyde at cornerback.
Former Anthony Wayne offensive lineman Andrew Donnal (6-7, 285), a former first-team All-Ohioan, is a true freshman being developed.
Ferentz said Stanzi's story is what he hopes becomes the norm for all of his Ohio recruits — players Iowa manages to bring in from the Buckeye State and then watch them mature into some of the best in the Big Ten conference. Stanzi is under consideration for a number of major national awards this season.
“We thought he had a chance to develop into a really good quarterback, and that's exactly what he's done,” Ferentz said. “He wasn't recruited by a lot of schools. He was a good, solid prospect, but not a knock-down, eight-star recruit, or one of those guys. We're looking for guys that have a chance to develop. Ricky fit that mold, and he's done a great job.”
Ferentz scoffed at the notion that, over the years, he's been able to come into Ohio and steal recruits that the Buckeyes have targeted.
“I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I'm chuckling. That's not how it works,” he said. “In a nutshell, you let Ohio State take their guys, and then you go from there. That's how it works, I think.”
Contact Matt Markey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6510.