When coaches are plotting their pipeline recruiting territory, they stick a pin on their campus and draw a circle around it. The radius of the circle isn't measured in mileage. Instead, it's time of travel. Anything five hours or fewer works. Anything longer is tough to sell.
Outliers exist. But few programs have the reach of Iowa State, which, along with efforts to reinvigorate its Midwest recruiting, is doing a bang-up job finding prospects in Texas, Florida and California.
The Cyclones have 51 players on their roster from Iowa (this is a list that includes walk-ons). Second-most is Florida with 26, then Texas with 20, then California with eight. Florida in particular has been good to the Cyclones. Look down the depth chart: Sam Richardson, Quenton Bundrage, Jarvis West, Jeremiah George, Willie Scott, Shontrelle Johnson, Deon Broomfield, Jansen Watson. Seven starters hail from the Sunshine State, with several high-usage backups like Johnson and Nigel Tribune.
Eight Iowa State coaches boarded two Florida-bound private planes after practice Thursday to look at several prospects. AllCyclones has confirmed Marlon Mack (Sarasota Booker), Cordell Hudson (Largo), Kenric Young (Gainesville), Alex Carswell (Strawberry Crest), Hunter Snyder (Eastlake) and 2014 commit Dedric Brinson (Lake Wales) will have ISU coaches at their games. In addition, the staff stopped by the IMG Academy to check in on Matt Boateng, Shane Dixon and Vosean Crumbie. Two of Iowa State's 13 class of 2014 commits, Reggan Northrup and Brinson, are Florida kids. Nine came over in the 2013 class, five in 2012, four in 2011, six in 2010 and four in 2009, Paul Rhoads' first recruiting class.
"We always rant and rave about the most guys being from Florida [other than Iowa]," Johnson, a DeLand, Fl., product, said. "We rep our state … they usually get us together with [Florida recruits] on visits."
On the surface it's an odd marriage, Iowa and Florida. January's average low in Iowa is 11 degrees. In Florida, it's 40. There are 20 cities in Florida with a population over 100,000. Iowa has two such cities. There are 1,197 miles of coastline in Florida. There are 21,406 square miles of cornfields in Iowa.
"It takes a while to get adapted," Johnson said. "Some guys are mama's boys, some guys have never left the state of Florida, some guys never flew on a plane, never seen the winter. So it's kind of hard to get adapted to but at the end of the day you feel at home."
For kids who grew up with green Christmases, 11 degrees Fahrenheit is incomprehensible. So when the Ames weather is brought up, Iowa State uses it as its advantage. How? Well, the Cyclones say, Don't you want to be ready when the Green Bay Packers draft you?
Another pitch: During August two-a-days, the toughest practices of the year, it'll be 85 and not 100. And one more: The Bergstrom Football Complex's full-sized indoor practice field.
While the geographical differences are stark, it makes plenty of sense for Iowa to recruit Florida with zeal. Defensive coordinator Wally Burnham coached at Florida State and USF. Secondary coach Troy Douglas coached at USF as well.
"[Wally Burnham's name] certainly carries some weight," defensive tackles coach Shane Burnham, his son, said. "He's been recruiting Florida since the 1980s. We know people, have had some relationships. A big population here and lots of talent."
Of the 18 Floridians the Cyclones have signed since 2011, only two — Donald Smith and D.A. Williams — are no longer on the team. The coaching staff uses this, too, as a pitch.
"Very few kids have flunked out and gotten homesick," Shane Burnham said. "The ones we've gotten have been very good players for us."
Said Johnson, who admits he does miss the beach: "As long as you're in a safe place, a homely place, with loving teammates and coaching staff, it helps with the transition."