Friday, Aug. 5, was Hawkeye football media day, so the next three weeks I’ll be talking about the offense, the defense and special teams.
This week… the offense, including quarterback, offensive line, tight end and wide receiver.
It all starts with the quarterback. It’s not easy to replace a three-year starter like Rick Stanzi.
All Rick did was finish with a 26-9 record and become only the third quarterback in Big Ten history to win three straight bowl games.
I think junior James Vandenberg (6-3, 212) will rise to the challenge. He has been in the program four years, he has started two games as a redshirt freshman when Rick got hurt and like he said at media day “If I’m not ready by now…”
James might have a little stronger arm then Rick and he has the team behind him.
“Any kind of experience is valuable and he’s had some experience in big ball games which is very valuable,” said Offensive Coordinator Ken O’Keefe at media day.
Redshirt freshman A. J. Derby (6-4, 232) and junior John Wienke (6-5, 220) are waiting in the wings if something happens to James.
Each has their own strengths.
“The thing that makes A.J. different than the other guys is that he can move his feet,” said coach O’Keefe. “John’s strength is throwing the ball downfield. James is a guy that can do both. He can move his feet and can throw the ball downfield.”
One of the reasons I think all three quarterbacks can succeed is that Iowa’s offensive line should be experienced and deep.
Five players who have started will be back and it all starts up front with center and the coach’s son James Ferentz (6-2, 284)
James is not only a solid player but one of the leaders on the offense.
“A center typically has to be the a leader,” said o-line coach Reece Morgan. “James has done a great job, he had an opportunity last year to get some experience.”
Sophomore Conner Boffeli (6-5, 290) will back up James.
I’m looking for senior right guard Adam Gettis (6-4, 280) to have a big year after starting last season but only appearing in two games because of injury.
“Adam is an experienced player, he’s a senior and he’s really developed a little bit,” said coach Morgan. “I think Adam has the opportunity to help us.”
Senior Woody Orne (6-5, 295) is one of the strongest players on the team and he starts out fall camp as the No. 2 right guard.
On the left side, sophomore Nolan MacMillan (6-6, 288) started six games last fall before being injured. He was named on the Big Ten All-Freshman team as well as Academic All Big Ten.
Redshirt freshman Brandon Scherff (6-5, 310) made some big strides at right guard during spring practice and could see some playing time.
Brandon actually played quarterback as a sophomore in Denison. He moved to tight end as a junior and made first team all-state as an offensive lineman his senior season.
“During practice, Riley and James come up to me and say if you need any help just let me know,” said Brandon. “I really like that.”
Riley Reif is back at left tackle. The 6-6, 300 pound junior is a preseason All American and has started 21 straight games. He was first team All-Big Ten last year.
Riley credits Adrian Clayborn for helping him improve.
“Adrian is a really good player,” said Riley. “I have a lot of respect for him as a player and a person. He’s doing well for himself. I wish him the best and thank him for making me a better player.”
Markus Zusevics (6-5, 300) is on the right side at tackle. The senior from Illinois started all 13 games last year and should be up for All-Big Ten honors.
Backups include junior Matt Tobin (6-6, 285) and sophomore Brett Van Sloten (6-7, 292).
“Brett is a guy that you really like,” said coach Morgan. “He’s a tough kid, he’s got a lot of pride and he’s a hard worker. He has to have a good August for us to have a good football team.”
The Hawks should have a good one-two punch at tight end with senior Brad Herman (6-5, 255) and sophomore C.J. Fiedorowicz (6-7, 265).
“Brad got his feet wet last year and did a lot of good things for us,” said Iowa Head Coach Kirk Ferentz. “Brad’s blocking has really improved. That’s something we are really pleased about.”
C.J. came to Iowa as a wide receiver so he not only had to learn how to block but to get down in a three-point stance.
“C.J. might be the most improved player we had during spring practice,” said coach Ferentz. “He really made strides and we are excited about that.”
Zach Derby, a 6-3, 240-pound junior, played in 10 games last season, mostly on special teams. He should be ready to contribute more this fall.
“I had a lot of fun,” said Zach about his first year with playing time. “I’ve been thinking about it all of my life trying to be out there and to finally get out there on the field was a great experience.”
Look for true freshman Ray Hamilton (6-5, 235) to get a shot at playing time at tight end.
Since the Hawks like to use two tight ends a lot, they will need to develop some depth.
Iowa has two talented wide receivers with senior Marvin McNutt (6-4, 215) and junior Keenan Davis (6-3, 215).
Marvin is an All-American candidate after catching 53 passes for 861 yards and eight touchdowns last year.
Marvin had a chance to turn pro, but decided to stay and Hawk players and fans are thankful.
Keenan is primed to break out after a good spring and flashes of greatness on the field. He has caught 15 passes for 186 yards and two touchdowns for his career.
If Keenan can at least double those totals, the Hawks will have a good year.
Iowa needs to find some backups and it will have to come from junior Steven Staggs (6-3, 195), sophomore Don Shumpert (6-3, 187) and Jordan Cotton (6-1, 185), redshirt freshman Kevonte Martin Manley (6-0, 200) or walk-on Blake Haluska (6-4, 208).
Don played on special teams last year and Kevonte was almost brought out of redshirting last year.
Next week I’ll look at the running backs, the defensive line and linebackers.