March 25, 2012

Spring Outlook: QB

One year ago, James Vandenberg was handed the keys to the Iowa offense. One year later he is firmly in control of the keys, but what he will be driving could be very different following the change at offensive coordinator and the graduation of several key seniors. We go deep into quarterback talk in our spring outlook series.


Starters Lost: None

Starters Returning: James Vandenberg, SR

Two Deeps:
James Vandenberg (SR), Jake Rudock (R-FR)

The Numbers:
Vandenberg: 237-404 for 3,022 yards, 25 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. John Wienke: 0-1 passing with one interception.

Overview

While the numbers put up by James Vandenberg were certainly strong, the results were uneven in terms of consistent production for the Iowa offense, especially on the road. While Vandenberg did pick up his first career road win late in the season at Purdue, the senior to be had his share of struggles in opposing venues, especially closing out games.

But, overall it was a successful first season as a starter by Vandenberg based on the numbers. For comparisons sake, looking at Ricky Stanzi's numbers in his junior season, he threw for 2,417 yards, but he also threw 100 less passes in that season. In Stanzi's senior season, he threw for nearly the same amount of yards as Vandenberg last year (3,022) and completed 16 fewer passes. They also had nearly identical touchdown passes and interceptions when comparing those two seasons.

One interesting number to look at and that is pass attempts, which sort of flies in the face of the notion that Iowa is a ground and pound team. Vandenberg threw the football over 400 times. The only other time a Hawkeye signal caller threw the ball that many times in one year was back in 1988 when Chuck Hartlieb tossed it 440 times.

Vandenberg had some real high moments last year, led by the incredible 2nd half rally against Pittsburgh when Iowa came from 21 points in the 3rd quarter to win 31-27 and throw for a career high 399 yards. There were also some tough learning experiences mixed in last year, like the loss at Penn State and Nebraska, where the offense stalled out most of the game, and the late game issues against Minnesota and Iowa State.

This will be a challenging year for Vandenberg. He will be adjusting to a new offensive coordinator in Greg Davis and according to Coach Kirk Ferentz that also means new terminology and some offensive adjustments. He will also being life without star wide receiver Marvin McNutt, who will official take his talents to the NFL in late April. Those are two pretty significant changes facing the Keokuk native. One was expected, the other was certainly a surprise.

One thing we do know about new offensive coordinator Greg Davis is that he has a reputation for coaching up his guys under center and that will benefit Vandenberg greatly this year. But, he will have a pretty young and inexperienced crew surrounding him with youngsters in the backfield, some green wide receivers that need to step up, and a lot of new faces starting on the offensive line. It will be a challenge for Vandenberg, but he's a confident player who will up for the task.

Biggest Question

Vandenberg is a lock to start this season for the Hawkeyes, unless he is hit by the injury bug. The real battle appears to be for the backup position. Right now, redshirt freshman Jake Rudock has the lead heading into the spring. Many people close to the program feel that Rudock is ahead of where Vandenberg was coming out of his redshirt year and those same folks were very high on him at that point.

The backup job won't be handed to Rudock this spring. He will face strong competition from junior college signal caller Cody Sokol, who transferred to Iowa in January from Scottsdale JUCO in Arizona. Last season, Sokol, who has ties to the state of Iowa, threw for over 3,800 yards and 43 touchdowns. If Sokol doesn't outright win the backup position, the plan is that he will redshirt this fall and then compete with Rudock a year from now for the starting spot. Time will tell on this battle, but we should have a better idea at the end of spring as far as which direction we are headed.

Also in the mix will be senior John Wienke, who served as Vandenberg's back last season after A.J. Derby was suspended and then subsequently moved to linebacker before leaving the program in the offseason. Wienke is not listed in the two deeps at quarterback, but he could end up being Iowa's punter, which is the position he will probably see more work at this spring.

The Future

One part of the future has already arrived on campus in Cody Sokol. The next piece of the puzzle from the 2012 recruiting class arrives this fall when the form of C.J. Beathard from Franklin, TN. The former Ole Miss verbal made a late switch to Iowa after not feeling comfortable in the Rebels new offense.


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