Brant Gressel wears a Michigan-looking football helmet and uniform and is from the heart of Ohio State country, Centerville.
But he’s going to play football at the University of Iowa.
Gressel committed to the Hawkeyes in April, which was a record April haul in head coach Kirk Ferentz’s era. The 6-foot-2, 283-pounder will be part of a re-loading on the D-line.
After 2012, Iowa now has lost eight defensive linemen, so the re-stocking of the front four was and remains job No. 1 for this class.
What is Iowa looking for in D-linemen?
“For us, it’s like drafting the third, fourth, fifth rounds,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Who really projects, has upside, that type of thing? Quite often, that’s how our recruiting goes at that position. It’s just a hard position to recruit, and the obvious prospects tend to disappear pretty quickly. There are things we look for.”
Ferentz was asked exactly what it is Iowa looks for.
“It’s hard to play defense if you can’t move, I know that,” he said. “. . . Depending on what you do and what our guys do, you’re going to have to be able to move a little bit. They’ve got to be tough, and they’ve got to be fairly smart. I think there are some commonalities there. If a guy’s got pride, then we’ll work hard enough.
“The work part, we can give him that, but there are certain things we can’t teach.”
Gressel seems to have the work part down.
According to a post at the Dayton Daily News, Gressel won a letter as a freshman defensive tackle at Centerville High. Then, as a sophomore, he switched to center as a sophomore and started one game. Last season, he switched back to tackle. Monday, he accepted a Big Ten football scholarship to play the position.
Gressel thanked his coach, Ron Ullery, for staying confident in him.
“I just needed to hear that,” Gressel told The News. “I calmed down and I had a great junior year because I had to. I couldn’t afford to mess up.”
Gressel, who ended up being the first recruit O-line coach Brian Ferentz has landed for the Hawkeyes, held more than a dozen scholarship offers when he committed to the Hawkeyes, including Cincinnati, Louisville, Minnesota, N.C. State, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. Gressel, who made 54 tackles, 11 TFL, and five sacks last season, committed not long after visiting Iowa City.
“He is an extremely physical player,” Ullery told HawkeyeReport.com. “He’s very strong and gets off the ball really well. He used to play offensive line, so he can get off the ball quickly and uses his hands really well. He has a great motor and plays hard on every snap.”
Gressel holds a 3.75 GPA and will pursue engineering. Ohio State scouted Centerville and secured O-lineman Evan Lisle.
Scouting snippet (from ESPN.com)
The Positive: When you watch Gressel play he has an old-school tough guy kind of feel to him. Even his last name sounds like that of a snot-blowing D-Tackle. He has solid size and needs to pack on some more bulk, but does display good playing strength for his size. He is a fairly explosive kid coming off the ball. He can be tough at the point-of-attack, displays the ability to fire out low and shoot his hands and on contact roll his hips and stand blockers up.
The Pause: Displays adequate range, but will stay after the play and looks to give good effort. Displays more marginal short-area change-of-direction skills. As a pass a rusher he is simply a physical power rusher type, who can push blockers back and constrict the pocket and flashes the ability to be active with his hands to be a able to come off the block and get a hit on the quarterback at times. Not a lot of flash with Gressel, but the kid is a tough, strong, hard-nosed player who with added size should grow into a physical and steady presence inside.
What Iowa said . . .
Recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson: "Nose guard out of Iowa. A very physical guy. He's not overly tall, but a tough, hard-nosed guy who can move a little bit and who we think can help on the inside of our D-line."
What Rivals.com said . . .
Midwest recruiting coordinator Josh Helmholdt: "He plays at a very strong program there in central Ohio, Dayton area, at Centerville. He's a guy who has played top-level competition. I would say he's probably not as athletic as a [Nathan] Bazata, but might come in a little more seasoned because he played a little higher level. He lined up across a Rivals Top 100 offensive tackles [Evan Lisle]. He's a guy who's seen what it takes and has gone against players who are headed to Division I and knows what it takes to get there."
What I think (FWIW, obviously) . . .
Listed at 280, you wonder where he could top out weight-wise. Iowa had trouble holding point of attack last fall being undersized and inexperienced at tackles. Gressel does have your classic Big Ten DT frame and Iowa wants to play him as a one-technique. The competition there could be charted by redshirt freshman Jaleel Johnson, but he also might fit in elsewhere on the DL. It's easy to see a 290- or 300-pound Gressel getting time on the nose. You also have to like the fact that he knows what he's getting into. He's walking into the "war daddy" part of the D-line and he knows what it'll take.