March 26, 2011
Saturday Spring Practice Photo Gallery
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Practice for the University of Iowa football team had ended Saturday when quarterback James Vandenberg asked a favor of receiver Keenan Davis.
Please run one more route, the Hawkeye’s most experienced quarterback said to the Hawkeye’s most experienced receiver.
Davis obliged and ran a perfect pattern, Vandenberg threw a perfect ball, and the duo could finally escape the 30-degree temperatures inside Kinnick Stadium and hustle for the warmth of a locker room.
“That was one I missed in practice that I can’t miss,” Vandenberg said. “We always talk about going out on a good note, so I begged him to run it one more time. He’s run a thousand routes today, but he ran one more for me and we got it corrected, so we’re good to go.”
The Hawkeyes’ third practice of the spring was held on the game field in conjunction with the program’s annual Coach’s Clinic. Vandenberg, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound junior-to-be from Keokuk, Iowa, is on top of a quarterback depth chart that for the past three seasons was manned by Ricky Stanzi.
“There were plenty of days where Rick wasn’t at practice or didn’t practice and I had to step in,” Vandenberg said. “That experience I gained a couple years ago (three games in 2009 when Stanzi was injured) was also really useful. If I’m not ready now, I’m never going to be ready. I’ve been here long enough, I know the system and I’m trying to help these young guys because we have a lot of new faces out there.”
Vandenberg completed 31 of 57 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman when he started at Ohio State on Nov. 14 and in Kinnick on Nov. 21 during an Orange Bowl-clinching victory against Minnesota. Last season Vandenberg completed 5 of 8 passes for 45 yards and a touchdown.
“I have to enhance myself as a leader. I need to continue to grow within the system and grow into that leadership role. Rick did a great job with that. I’m a new face in the huddle and a lot of those linemen have been playing for a while. I have to come in as somebody they respect so they’ll block for me just as well.”
“I have to enhance myself as a leader,” Vandenberg said. “I need to continue to grow within the system and grow into that leadership role. Rick did a great job with that. I’m a new face in the huddle and a lot of those linemen have been playing for a while. I have to come in as somebody they respect so they’ll block for me just as well.”
It helps that Vandenberg could observe Stanzi’s evolution as a player during his three years as a starter when Stanzi completed 60 percent of his passes for 7,377 yards and 56 touchdowns. The Hawkeyes have also won the Outback, Orange and Insight bowls in succession.
“Taking little tidbits from Rick’s work ethic and how he conducted himself on the field has really benefitted me,” Vandenberg said.
Marvin McNutt (53 catches, 861 yards, eight touchdowns) is sidelined this spring, rehabbing from shoulder surgery. That means there are plenty of new hands Vandenberg can toss to in practice. So far this spring, that has meant a win-win situation for both the quarterbacks and receivers.
“Of course I would love to have Marvin, he’s a great talent and he’s a quarterback’s best friend,” Vandenberg said. “But him not being here means these young guys are getting lots of reps against Shaun Prater, Greg Castillo, Micah Hyde and B.J. Lowery — those are good Big Ten corners. So for them to get first-hand experience with the (first unit) with reps against them in all the different periods will help them grow at a faster rate. It’s been interesting watching Shump (Don Shumpert) and Kevonte (Martin-Manley) and some of the older receivers who are getting in for the first time.”
Saturday was a chilly March day in Iowa City with 20-mile-an-hour gusts making precision passing difficult. Still, it was a successful practice for Vandenberg, John Wienke and A.J. Derby.
“It was a little rough when the wind was kicking up,” Vandenberg said. “What gets you is that it dries your hands out. If you can keep your hands moist you can grip the balls, but when the wind whips for a while, it dries your hands out and makes it harder to grip the football. I thought we did a good job for the most part. We completed a lot of balls today.”
Vandenberg, the most prolific passer in Iowa high school history, grew up a Hawkeye fan, so he is also adept in UI football trivia. Who is the last native Iowan to start a season at quarterback for the Hawkeyes?
“I think it was McCann,” Vandenberg said. “That’s the last one I can remember.”
Correct. Kyle McCann, a native of Creston, Iowa, threw for more than 2,000 yards during the Alamo Bowl championship season of 2001.
Now it’s Vandenberg’s turn. And he has already shown that he’s willing to work overtime to get the job done.