Eight Buckeyes – junior offensive lineman Bryant Browning, freshman offensive lineman Marcus Hall, junior defensive back Jermale Hines, running back Jermil Martin, freshman defensive end Jonathan Newsome, sophomore defensive back Nate Oliver, senior defensive lineman Rob Rose and senior wide receiver Ray Small – have Cleveland listed as their hometown and several others hail from other Northeast Ohio cities.
Among those eight native Clevelanders is Browning, who lived only minutes from the Browns' stadium before coming to Ohio State. He grew up a Browns fan and watched them play each week with his grandfather as a child. Browning said immediate family got his allotment of four tickets for Saturday.
The game will not be the first time Browning has played at Cleveland Browns Stadium. The 6-4, 312-pound lineman also played there in the 2005 Ohio High School Athletic Association Division I playoffs for Cleveland Glenville. The Tarblooders, led by Browning and Small, left CBS with a 34-14 victory over Solon.
"There were a few people there, but this weekend it should be packed to capacity," said Browning, who said it was only a five minute freeway drive from his house to the stadium. "It should be a real great time."
Even though they'll be in white jerseys, Ohio State has certainly not found Cleveland to be a hostile environment. Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel and his coaching staff have had plenty of success recruiting Cleveland athletes. The so-called "Glenville pipeline" is one factor, but Browning said OSU's success in Northeast Ohio has to do with how children are raised there.
"If you grow up in Cleveland, you're going to be a Buckeye fan," Browning said. "I know for me personally, my parents and grandparents always watched Ohio State games. You grow up watching the team. It's a dream to grow up and play for (Ohio State)."
Nonetheless, the Glenville connection helps. Of the eight Cleveland natives on OSU's roster, all but one – St. Edward product Nate Oliver – were Tarblooders and played for head coach Ted Ginn Sr. Even if you take out the Glenville products, Ohio State still has a heavy Northeast Ohio feel. Sixteen other players are from that part of the state: freshman defensive tackle Adam Bellamy and redshirt freshman receiver Joe Cech (Aurora), tight end Nic DiLillo (Madison), freshman defensive end Melvin Fellows (Garfield Heights), freshman receiver Chris Fields (Painesville), fifth-year senior running back Joe Gantz (Wooster), redshirt freshman fullback James Georgiades (North Canton), junior defensive lineman Thaddeus Gibson (Euclid), sophomore running back Dan "Boom" Herron (Warren), junior offensive linemen Josh Kerr and Scott Sika (Strongsville), freshman offensive lineman Corey Linsley and freshman defensive lineman John Simon (Youngstown), fifth-year senior punter Jon Thoma (Alliance), junior cornerback Devon Torrence (Canton) and fifth-year senior defensive lineman Lawrence Wilson (Akron).
Ohio State's connections to that part of the state don't end with the players, either. Saturday's matchup with the Rockets will also feature a pair of head coaches with ties to Berea, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb of less than 20,000 people. UT head coach, and former OSU assistant, Tim Beckman hails from Berea, and Tressel spent some of his childhood years in Berea. Both are also graduates of Berea High School.
Tressel mentioned the high school connection during his Tuesday afternoon press conference.
"I think it's the first time Berea High School has ever had two Division I coaches squaring off against one another to my knowledge," Tressel said. "I would assume everyone from Berea, Ohio, will show up, but I can't make that promise. They've all called and I don't have enough tickets."