Derby wins his first QB derby at Iowa

Published: February 4 2010 | 6:43 am - Updated: 30 March 2014 | 6:41 pm in
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IOWA CITY — The debate came to a conclusion Wednesday, for now at least. A.J. Derby will play quarterback at Iowa.

This is from Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz. Ferentz also called Derby, a 6-foot-4, 220-pounder a “Tim Tebow” type of athlete. He also said if Iowa changes its style of offense to accommodate Derby’s skills, so be it.

“That’s our intent is for him to play quarterback,” Ferentz said at his signing day news conference. “We’re eager to see how he can progress and improve.

“And if things change in our style a little bit, that’s fine. Down the road, we think that he’s a guy that can win and lead the football team. We’re really impressed with what he did this past year.”

The Iowa City High all-stater made it official when the Hawkeyes signed 21 players to scholarships Wednesday.

Iowa’s class includes Derby and Solon’s James Morris, the premier players in Iowa this season. The class has three U.S. Army All-American Bowl participants in Derby, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz and offensive tackle Andrew Donnal.

For the first time in Ferentz’s 11-plus seasons, Iowa signed three players from the Washington D.C./Baltimore area with Gilman School linebacker Jim Poggi and defensive tackle Anthony Ferguson Jr. and DeMatha High School running back Marcus Coker.

But, yes, Ferentz did say “if things change in our style a little bit.” He was talking offense and Derby. For Ferentz, that’s a fairly bold statement.

Derby led Iowa City High to a 14-0 season and a Class 4A state title. He completed 99 of 187 for 1,820 yards, 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He rushed 142 times for 752 yards. He averaged 40.8 yards a punt and picked off two passes on defense.

Here are facts and figures that support the QB choice maybe more than anything else: Derby was City High’s first two-year captain and led the Little Hawks to a 24-1 record in two seasons as starting QB.

“He’s a winner,” Ferentz said. “And on top of that, we think he’s got a lot of upside at the quarterback position.”

Derby has been steadfast in his desire to play quarterback.

“Most recruiting Web sites just have me listed as an ‘athlete,’ like I might play something else,” Derby said. “But the Iowa coaches and I are set on quarterback.”

Derby was a Parade All-America last weekend as an “all-purpose” player. He was listed on the U.S. Army All-American Bowl west roster as a defensive back but played quarterback and finished 1 of 6.

There’s always the noise from fandom about his possibly playing another position, which is understandable. His dad, John, was an outstanding linebacker for Iowa’s 1991 Rose Bowl team.

Ferentz always thought “athlete.”

“A year ago at this time, I would have probably told you there’s no question in our minds he was a tremendous football player, tremendous athlete, kind of a Tim Tebow discussion, if you will,” Ferentz said. “And that’s really how we envisioned him.”

And then Derby, who’s enrolled and will participate in spring practice, went to a session at an Iowa football camp this summer. He opened Ferentz’s eyes to the quarterback possibilities.

“He really impressed us with the progress and improvement that he had made,” Ferentz said. “He clearly had been working on his footwork, throwing the football, that type of thing.

“We were just all tremendously impressed. And after that, we thought, boy, this guy, he’s got a lot of upside at quarterback. I think we’re getting a tremendous football player, a tremendous person.”

Senior Ricky Stanzi, barring anything crazy, has QB locked down for 2010. In 2011, it’ll be junior James Vandenberg, who nearly lifted Iowa to victory at Ohio State last season, junior John Wienke and Derby.

Maybe the debate isn’t over. Ferentz slipped that in there, too, Wednesday.

“If that (quarterback) doesn’t work down the road, there’s probably a lot of things he could do,” Ferentz said.

Maybe it’s just beginning.m

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