April 14, 2008

Spring Preview: Quarterbacks

No position has generated more discussion this off-season than who will be playing quarterback this fall for the Iowa Hawkeyes. After an up and down sophomore campaign, Jake Christensen returns for his junior season with two young signal callers hoping to push him as spring ball comes to a close.

THE FACTS

Position Coach: Ken O'Keefe

Starters Lost: None. Backup Arvell Nelson is no longer on the team.

Starters Returning: Jake Christensen

Spring Two Deep

Jake Christensen, Ricky Stanzi/Marvin McNutt

THE ANALYSIS

After starting all 12 games last year, Jake Christensen is looking to this spring as a chance to continue to improve under center and get the Iowa offense to perform more consistently this fall. Last season, Christensen completed 198 or his 370 throws for 2,269 yards and 17 touchdowns. Perhaps just as important, he threw only six interceptions.

A big part of the struggles on offense last year was clearly related to the number of negative yardage plays on offense, particularly quarterback sacks. Christensen was sacked 46 times last year amounting in 271 yards lost.

Like most positions on a team that finished with a disappointing 6-6 record, starting jobs are open to competition in the spring and according to Head Coach Kirk Ferentz, quarterback is one of them. Christensen has a leg up based on experience running the Iowa offense, but he will be pushed by two underclassmen who are vying to move up the depth chart.

The spring depth chart behind Christensen lists sophomore Ricky Stanzi and redshirt freshman Marvin McNutt as the backup's at the position.

Stanzi appeared in twice in games last season in very limited action and has been getting plenty of reps this spring as he prepares for the fall. The 6-foot-4 and 215 pound quarterback from Ohio has an above average arm and is a better athlete than many believe. This has been a big spring for Stanzi as he tries to vie for a move into the starting position and it will be interesting to see how the coaches view his progress this week.

McNutt is in his first spring as a Hawkeye player after primarily running Iowa's scout team offense last fall during his redshirt year on campus. The 6-foot-4 signal caller is a very athletic player, but in terms of quarterback experience, he is still very raw. This spring will be huge as he gets more reps running Iowa's offense.

A team always needs an extra arm or two during practice and with Arvell Nelson moving on, walk-on Tommy Donatell has been get a few reps at quarterback. With three true freshman headed to campus this fall, it is unknown if Donatell will continue at quarterback or possibly move to the defensive secondary this fall.

This Saturday at Iowa's scrimmage, which is open to the public, there is no question where Iowa fans will have their eyes focused on most of the time. Quarterback races always attract plenty of attention and ink from the media, so finishing strong and impressing the fans will be important this week. The best bet is that Christensen will go into the fall holding on to the top spot on the depth chart and the push will continue for him to improve and for the others (including the true freshmen) to show the coaches that that are also ready for game action.

COMING ATTRACTIONS

David Blackwell - 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds from Pompano Beach, FL.
James Vandenberg - 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds from Keokuk, IA.
John Wienke - 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds from Tuscola, IL.


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