A local cold shoulder is given to Iowa coach
Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz is a native Pittsburgher, but his hometown rarely will give up its own.
“We’re almost oh-fer recruiting in Pittsburgh,” he said. “I guess it just shows you the clout I’ve got. I don’t think we’ve gotten a guy.”
In his 13th year with the Hawkeyes, Ferentz seldom lands local high school talent despite Iowa being a finalist for numerous high-ranked recruits over the years.
“We’re good at coming in second,” the Upper St. Clair native said.
Pitt (2-0) will try to beat Ferentz again, this time on the field, when the Panthers visit Iowa (1-1) on Saturday.
Two Pitt freshmen, starting outside linebacker Ejuan Price and reserve safety Lafayette Pitts, visited the Big Ten school as three-star recruits from Woodland Hills.
Price picked Ohio State over Iowa before eventually enrolling at Pitt after Jim Tressel’s resignation.
“They are just genuine people. They are straightforward,” Price said of his visit to Iowa. “They play hard-nosed football, and I really like that.”
The coincidental nature of this weekend’s matchup is not lost on Price, who will be starting in the 70,000-seat Kinnick Stadium he nearly called home. Iowa starting running back Marcus Coker was Price’s host during his December visit.
“It’s kind of crazy,” Price said. “I’ve been thinking about that the past couple of nights. I got so close to them. I got to know them real well. Now, I’m playing against them. That will be cool to see how that plays out.”
Ferentz also had a chance at multiple WPIAL stars from the Class of 2011, including McKeesport’s Delvon Simmons and Branden Jackson, who both signed with Texas Tech; Gateway’s Armstead Williams (Purdue) and Dondi Kirby (Illinois); and Woodland Hills’ Quinton Jefferson (Maryland). All of them visited Iowa.
Most were recruited by longtime Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe, who has ties to Western Pa. from his days coaching at nearby Division III Allegheny College.
Former Upper St. Clair linebacker Sean Lee nearly picked the Hawkeyes before signing with Penn State in 2005. Rumors about Ferentz leaving for the NFL was a big reason Lee, a linebacker with the Cowboys, stayed closer to home.
Pitt nose tackle Myles Caragein, safety Jarred Holley and tight end Hubie Graham all considered Iowa.
“Young kids like us,” Ferentz said. “(They say) ‘Coach, you’ve got a nice school, you’ve got a nice campus, nice this and that, and I’m going here.’ We get that a lot.”
Ferentz said the staff has pulled back its recruiting in Western Pennsylvania these days.
“We don’t do a lot,” he said. “We don’t invest a lot of time, just because it hasn’t been productive. It’s a credit to the schools in the state.”
While the Erie area has produced former Iowa stars Bob Sanders, Ed Hinkel and Jovon Johnson, Pittsburgh hasn’t been as fruitful. Ferentz, a graduate assistant at No. 2-ranked Pitt in 1980, knows why it is difficult to lure recruits to come to Iowa.
“Being from Pittsburgh, I understand,” he said. “Kids want to stay home and play in their home state. That’s made it tough for us. It’s one of our biggest obstacles. We recruit a lot outside of our state. We have to, because of our population. It’s tough when you are in somebody’s backyard.”