Stanley, Young Lead Wisconsin Hawkeyes Back to Badger State

November 7, 2017

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – During the last few recruiting cycles, Iowa has picked up its prospecting efforts in the enemy territory of Wisconsin. They found it profitable. Those guys will be heading home Saturday when the Hawkeyes face the Badgers in Madison.

Iowa has landed some key contributors from the border state. It starts with the guy leading the offense.

First-year starting quarterback Nate Stanley is enjoying a breakout season, highlighted by Saturday’s five-touchdown, no-interception performance in a 55-24 blowout of No. 3 Ohio State. His 22 scoring tosses rank second in the Big Ten and 11th nationally. He needs five more to tie Chuck Long (’85) for the most by a Hawkeye in a single season.

Toren Young, a redshirt freshman running back in the same ’16 recruiting class as Stanley, has filled in admirably in a backfield that has weathered injuries. He’s contributed 161 rushing yards (4.7 YPC) and a 23-yard catch. He scored his first college touchdown against the Buckeyes.

Kristian Welch (Iola) is a true sophomore linebacker playing on multiple special teams. True freshmen Ryan Gersonde (punter, Milwaukee) and Max Cooper (receiver, Waukesha) are contributing. Walk-ons Peter Pekar (tight end, Greendale), Joe Ludwig (defensive back, Middleton), Tommy Kujawa (tight end, Greendale) and Max Duchow (defensive back, Pewaukee) also hail from the Badger State.

Assistant Seth Wallace mined Wisconsin for prospects the last several years. Tim Polasek, a native who recruited the state for North Dakota State, has taken over in his first season coaching the Hawkeye offensive line.

Iowa has added three more prospects in the ’18 recruiting class. Green Bay’s Henry Geil (running back) and Jack Plumb (offensive tackle) along with Cody Ince (Balsam Lake, offensive line) have verbally pledged to the Hawkeyes.

Of the group of Hawkeyes from Wisconsin, Stanley and Plumb are the only ones who held a Wisconsin offer.

“We’ve always gone up there and seen what we could find,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “But for whatever reason, we’ve been able to get a couple players that have fit well with us, and just the match was good. They were guys we thought were good players, and they liked what they found here, so it’s worked out well, and a couple of those guys have made it to the field now.”

Stanley, who played at Menomonie High, committed to Iowa in early November of his junior year. He chose the Hawkeyes ahead of an offer from Pittsburgh, where Wisconsin native Paul Chryst was the coach. When Chryst returned to the Badgers later that year, he tried to lure Stanley to his alma mater.

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Chryst came to Menominie and met a few times with Stanley but couldn’t convince him to change. Donita and Jay Stanley advised their son to honor his Iowa commitment.

Stanley said he will have around 150-200 family members and friends at Saturday’s game. He only needs to secure four tickets, however, as many of them already are season ticket holders at Camp Randall Stadium. He said that’s the main thing that makes this weekend different than the rest.

That’s not the only change, however. He’ll be facing off against high school classmate Mason Stokke, who chose the Badgers ahead of an Iowa offer. Wisconsin offensive lineman Alex Fenton was a year behind Stanley and Stokke at Menomonie High.

“I have a couple of friends that play on the team so maybe just being able to play them and have bragging rights over them for a year would be nice,” Stanley said while smiling.

Stanley said he did not grow a Badger fan.

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“I really didn’t follow college sports all that much. If it was a sport, it was college basketball that I really followed. I was a North Carolina fan for basketball,” he said.

Stanley respects the Wisconsin program, especially its head coach. He reminds the sophomore his the Hawkeye staff members.

“He’s a great guy, too, a really down-to-earth guy. I believe he truly cares about his players and who they are as people, too,” Stanley said.

Young grew up 10 minutes from the Wisconsin campus and attended Monona Grove High. Unlike Stanley, the Badgers didn’t want him. In fact, Iowa was his only scholarship offer.

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“It’s going to be a cool experience,” he said of being at Camp Randall. “I played there my sophomore year for the state championship game. It will be cool going back and just playing in front of family, teachers, coaches, friends. It’s exciting. It’ll definitely be different wearing the black and gold.”

The Badgers showed Young mild interest. He visited campus for a few spring practices and attended a game there.

With only one offer, Young said he plays with a chip on his shoulder against everybody that doubted him, not just Wisconsin.

“It’s all about finding the perfect fit for me and for them. They needed to find a fit. Maybe I wasn’t a fit for them and that’s OK. I found a spot. I love it here,” he said.

The Badgers fans he knows told Young they hope he plays well but that their team comes out victorious.

“I have a lot of support from family but I think I’ll be able to convert a couple of those fans,” he said.

Young sat in the Camp Randall stands two years ago wearing Hawkeye gear when Iowa knocked off the Badgers, 10-6, en route to winning the Big Ten West Division.

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