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Matt Campbell’s Iowa State recruiting strategy has resulted in more Iowans in Cy-Hawk game
Cyclones’ in-state recruiting makes this rivalry even more meaningful
AMES — It’s no secret that Matt Campbell has overhauled Iowa State’s roster and changed the way he and his staff recruited, compared to previous staffs.
Campbell has a Midwest-focused recruiting strategy, with an emphasis on starting in Iowa. No longer is Iowa State scraping the lower end of the Division-I talent pool in Florida and Texas.
That approach has done wonders for the Cyclones as No. 9 Iowa State hosts No. 10 Iowa on Saturday at 3:30 in Jack Trice Stadium.
“I do feel like this will be the first time we’ve gone into this game and there’s a good chunk of our roster that are playing on our two-deep that are from this state,” Campbell said. “We’ve had to work really hard to reshape that and get that, and I think there is an extra meaning to this game for those players.
“That’s what makes it special, man. It’s a rivalry game. It’s special to be a part of that. And when you have young men from the state who have grown up and watched this game, and been to this game, I do think they understand it. They have great awareness of the meaning behind this football game.”
When Campbell took over in 2016 most of the Iowans on the team were walk-ons. The notable Iowans on the roster were Allen Lazard (Urbandale), Joel Lanning (Ankeny) and a couple guys along the offensive line like Jake Campos (West Des Moines Valley and Julian Good-Jones (Cedar Rapids).
That’s changed now. Iowa State’s backup quarterback Hunter Dekkers (Hawarden), tight end Jared Rus (Eldridge), linemen Trevor Downing (Creston), Colin Newell (Ames) and Jake Remsburg (West Des Moines) are all from Iowa.
On the defense, end Zach Petersen (Long Grove) and linebackers O’Rien Vance (Cedar Rapids) and Jake Hummel (Des Moines) are from Iowa.
“This is something every Iowan should be at and experience,” Newell said. “This game was a blast growing up. Everybody in school on Friday would wear their Iowa State stuff for class. It was always a fun game.”
Even the out-of-staters get a little more motivation from the Iowans when they see the way they approach the game.
“The players from this state definitely have a little extra juice because they know some of the guys on the other side,” said receiver Xavier Hutchinson, who is from Jacksonville, Fla. “That’s what’s great about competition, you always want to beat your friend in a game. That’s how they’re treating it.”
This will be Hutchinson’s first Cy-Hawk game, but it’ll be senior linebacker Mike Rose’s third.
His first start came against Iowa in 2018, when he burst onto the scene by recording 11 tackles as a true freshman.
Rose, from Brecksville, Ohio, has grown to appreciate the game and its significance locally and nationally. College GameDay is coming for the second straight Cy-Hawk matchup.
“I didn’t know much about this rivalry coming into it, but as we’ve seen, it garners national attention now,” Rose said. “That’s a testament to both programs doing a great job. It’s a fun game and I know the state loves it — it’s probably really good for the state economically, too.”
Breece Hall thought he knew about the rivalry since he was recruited by both schools out of Wichita, Kan., but as he’s found out, the locals have a little more motivation.
“Once I got here and talked to the Iowans on the team I realized I don’t fully understand it,” Hall said with a chuckle. “But I love this rivalry to the highest extent that someone can who’s not from Iowa. It’s a big game.”
Campbell hasn’t beaten Iowa. It’s the only thing that could be considered a sticking point in his impressive resume.
Having more Iowans on the two-deep could help with the extra juice they’ll bring. But for Campbell, it still comes down to his favorite word: detail.
“As in any rivalry football game, the number one thing is it means something,” Campbell said. “There’s always a higher level of energy. Any rivalry game, and especially this one, the energy is high. It’s about who, in the moment, can fundamentally focus on their detail.
“If you look at us in this game, there have been times that we’ve played well, and then in some of the critical moments, we haven’t been able to execute and they have. It’s certainly an incredible rivalry and one you want to be a part of.”