Spring Prospectus: The Quarterbacks

April 3, 2011

Written by Jon Miller

Hawkeye Nation

Each year, Iowa puts forth a Spring Prospectus, and in it they break down the team position by position. It’s interesting to read what the folks inside the hallways of the Hayden Fry football complex approve to be placed inside the prospectus, and we have shared this in position by position looks for a number of years. The comments and opinions below come from the Iowa Football Spring Prospectus, which can be downloaded in its entirety by visiting this link.

Gone is reliable signal caller Ricky Stanzi. He posted a 26-9 record as Iowa’s starter the past three years. He’s only the third quarterback in Big Ten history to start and win three straight bowl games. All he did was complete 221 of 345 passes (.641) for 3,004 yards and 25 touchdowns last year. His career totals were 542-907 passing for 7,377 yards and 56 touchdowns. That ranks third on Iowa’s all-time passing charts.

Pretty big shoes to fill, but the Hawkeyes feel they have the quarterback who can do it. Junior James Vandenberg (6-3, 212) has all the tools to make the transition of quarterbacks minimal. He only played in three games last year, completing five of eight passes for 45 yards and a touchdown. But, that doesn’t begin to tell the entire story. He started Iowa’s final two regular season games in 2009, after Stanzi sustained an ankle injury. He led Iowa to a near upset of Ohio State on the road as the Hawkeyes lost in overtime (27-24) and then led the team to a win over Minnesota. He completed 42 of 87 passes for 470 yards and two touchdowns that freshman season. Vandenberg is also a two-time Academic all-Big Ten honoree. Quarterback Coach Ken O’Keefe is excited about Vandenberg’s potential.

(NOTE: Here at HawkeyeNation.com, we touched on Vandenberg’s ‘One Shining Moment’ from the Ohio State game in 2009. Read the item and watch the Vandenberg OSU highlight reel here.)

Junior lefty John Wienke (6-5, 220) will enter spring drills as the backup. Iowa coaches feel his quarterback skills are excellent. He has continued to impress the staff with his work ethic and leadership ability. The only thing he lacks at this time is actual game experience. Redshirt freshman A.J. Derby (6-4, 232) is a highly touted home grown talent from Iowa City.

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Vandenberg is the clear number one entering spring drills, but Wienke and Derby should be able to make the quarterback race an interesting one. All three are highly capable of leading the Hawkeye offense.

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JON’S THOUGHTS: It’s interesting to read the preceding line; “Vandenberg is the clear number one entering spring drills.” I agree with the sentiment, but keep in mind this line was not produced by an opinion writer from the media, rather, it was produced by someone employed by the University of Iowa. I don’t know if it was a member of the Sports Information department or who exactly, but you can bet the contents were looked over and approved before the item went to print.

By all accounts, it sounds like Wienke made the kind of strides last fall that Vandenberg had made during the fall of 2009 with some room to grow. He has seen the work ethic put forth by Ricky Stanzi as well as by Vandenberg, and I would guess he’s no slouch in the film room either. I for one hope that Wienke does push Vandenberg this spring, legitimately. One of those players (likely Vandenberg) will be the starter but the other will be just one play away from being the starting quarterback at the University of Iowa.

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Remember early last season, against Eastern Illinois is the season opener, when Ricky Stanzi left the field hobbling after an awkward slide? Yeah, that sort of thing can happen at a moment’s notice. If Vandenberg wins the job, it certainly doesn’t mean we have heard the last of John Wienke as it relates to the 2011 season. It’s a physical game and the good news is it seems like Iowa has two physically capable options who have been in the program for some time.

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