QUICK LOOK BACK: In 2008, so much drama here. Jake Christensen, Ricky Stanzi and a whole big to-do. Last season, no, it wasn’t clear sailing for Stanzi, but it was Stanzi from minute one. He threw 17 TD passes and 15 interceptions, the most since Drew Tate had 14 in 2004. The “Stanziball” (nod to Black Heart Gold Pants) phenomenon spiked against Indiana on Halloween in Iowa City, when Stanzi threw five interceptions to go along with a career-high 337 yards and a pair of fourth-quarter TD bombs in a comeback victory. There’s the key word when discussing Stanzi, “victory.” He’s 18-4 as a starter, including a New Year’s Day and BCS bowl victories.
FOURTH DOWN — CONCERNS: Depth isn’t a concern this year. Sophomore James Vandenberg might not be a proven commodity, but through injury he was handed the keys to the car for the biggest game in 2009, at Ohio State, and nearly pulled off Iowa’s
first victory at Columbus since 1991. He followed up with a death struggle against Minnesota, 12-0, a game in which it was clear Iowa coaches were content to let the defense run wild and keep the offense in first gear.
Vandenberg showed some polished QB skills and a strong arm. He seems to have a terrific knowledge of the offense. He definitely knows what a unique weapon 6-4 wideout Marvin McNutt is on the goal line.
That said, it’s Stanzi. You can make a case, but an 18-4 record and two seasons as the starter is going to beat you.
THIRD DOWN — ADDITIONS/SUBTRACTIONS: This section is all about addition and therefore A.J. Derby.
The 6-4, 220-pound freshman graduated from Iowa City High in December and is enrolled at the UI. He’ll be dressed and taking reps when spring practice opens March 24.
I don’t expect him to dent the depth chart in 2010, which, right now, looks like Stanzi, Vandenberg and John Wienke as the three deep. Walk-on Wyatt Suess is probably the emergency No. 4.
But the fact that Derby is here shows he’s serious about being a QB and serious about being a QB ASAP. The 2011 depth chart looks to be Vandenberg, Wienke and redshirt freshman Derby, but that’s certainly not written in stone. Lots can happen between now and then. Look at Stanzi’s high-ankle sprain against Northwestern.
Austin Vier, a 6-7, 230-pounder, also comes in as a scholarship QB next fall. Walk-ons will/could include Evan McMillan, Blake Haluska and Mark Alt, who’s still undecided between hockey and football.
SECOND DOWN — BATTLES BREWING: Expect some shoving behind Stanzi. Reps are going to be gold with four scholarship quarterbacks in camp. Remember the uproar over the lack of snaps that Vandenberg saw before he was
shoved into action against Northwestern? Don’t expect that approach to change. Vandenberg and Wienke might get a bump in August, but it’s Stanzi’s show once the season starts.
When the clock winds down on the bowl game in 2011, that’s when it’s going to get interesting here.
Vandenberg will have two years. Or will he? If Derby redshirts, he’ll be a redshirt freshman in 2011. If this goes by the book, if Vandenberg hangs onto the job, Derby won’t be “the man” until 2013. That seems like a really long time. Wienke has a chance to make noise. He obviously knows where he sits, a solid No. 3 right now with Derby coming in. Ball’s in his court.
On Derby, I keep going back to the Kirk Ferentz statement on signing day:
“That’s our intent is for him to play quarterback. 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’s he’s a guy that can win and lead the football team.”
FIRST DOWN — “On Iowa” prediction for 2010: Is Stanzi an all-Big Ten quarterback? I believe he could be if he takes better care of the ball. Iowa was a different team last season. Shonn Greene and a veteran O-line were gone. Heir apparent running back Jewel Hampton suffered a torn ACL during summer drills. Iowa threw the ball 72 more times this season than last (392-320) and ran 61 fewer times (454 to 515 in ’08).
Stanzi carried more weight. He bowed a few times, but in the end, the Hawkeyes finished 11-2, with a bowl full of oranges and with a No. 7 ranking.
The competition for all-Big Ten QB probably begins with Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor, who’s coming off knee surgery this spring. Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien came out of nowhere and gave the Badgers the best QB they’ve had since Brooks Bollinger, leading the Big Ten in pass efficiency (143.0). Michigan’s Tate Forcier (10th in the league in total offense, 190.8) and Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins (19 TD passes, nine INTs) should be a year better. Indiana’s Ben Chappell and Minnesota’s Adam Weber will look to lead revivals.
Can’t get too far ahead. Stanzi has a veteran group returning at receiver, but the O-line is looking for three starters. Stanzi should be in the all-Big Ten conversation, pending how smoothly things go with the OL.
Iowa QBs in the NFL – Again, don’t want to get too far ahead, but if Stanzi has an all-Big Ten-ish kind of season, he could be the first Iowa QB picked in the NFL draft since . . . Matt Rodgers, who went in the 12th round to Buffalo in 1992.
Here are Iowa’s last five QBs in the NFL draft (I might’ve missed one between Long and Snook):
1992 — Matt Rodgers, Buffalo, 12th
1989 — Chuck Hartlieb, Houston, 12th
1987 — Mark Vlasic, San Diego, 4th
1986 — Chuck Long, Detroit, 1st
1966 — Gary Snook, St. Louis, 4th