James Vandenberg, battling OSU in 2009
He doesn’t have as much experience. He isn’t as big a patriot, and he doesn’t have the same “IT” factor or shaggy hairdo. He doesn’t have a “Stanziball” or a pending NFL contract. But he has something the former Iowa signal caller “Manzi” didn’t…he’s one of Iowa’s own.
James Vandenberg of the small town of Keokuk, Iowa, now has the duty to carry the torch as the next leader of the Iowa Hawkeyes offense. Vandenberg is the first starting quarterback from Iowa in 10 years, since Kyle McCann in 2001. Perhaps that’s a trivial fact, given the state of Iowa isn’t known for being quarterback-breeding ground. Still, Iowans can take pride in a hometown guy once again playing something other than defense or O-Line.
Besides a sense of state pride on his shoulders, Vandenberg has to follow in some pretty hefty footsteps. He’s been at Stanzi’s side the past couple years, studying film, providing feedback and learning the Xs and Os of the game. He’s had significant game experience for a back-up QB, though it was two seasons ago when he had to play in three games due to Stanzi’s ankle injury.
Nothing can replace live game experience, but James hasn’t been just sitting on the bench all this time. He’s been doing everything possible to improve and be ready for September 3rd, when he’ll take the stage as the real No. 1. He’s taken Stanzi’s example of work ethic and a cool head to heart, replicating what he can with a tougher course load.
What do we know about James Vandenberg as a player? We know he has a different style, a different arm. His passes in the 2009 Ohio State game looked like they were shot from a cannon at times; low, quick releases to the numbers.
How will James Vandenberg fair as QB #1?
His interceptions suggested more work needed on his feet and not giving away reads, but he spent the summer of 2010 studying Stanzi’s interceptions on film to provide feedback on how to correct them. Surely he learned nuggets for his own improvement during that exercise. He isn’t afraid to scramble when he needs to either. Let’s hope the O-Line this year will hold well, so he won’t have to take that risk too often.
We also know James is a smart guy, majoring in Integrated Physiology. He wants to be a chiropractor if the NFL doesn’t work out. He also loves the outdoors (hunting, fishing), and wasn’t afraid to wrestle linebacker Pat Angerer, even as a newbie freshman. Ferentz believes in him, making him one of his leadership captains for the year and, of course, the first QB on the depth chart.
Does he have the other intangibles it takes to lead the Hawkeyes to a victorious 2011 season? Can he manage a game, inspire a team and have the stamina to come back and win if necessary? These questions won’t be answered until this fall, where the rubber meets the road.
Vandenberg will still have to prove himself, since his impressive showing in the Shoe seems like a distant memory. Fans haven’t seen his improvement and what he’s capable of as a more mature junior. If he’s able to take on that mantle and win a few games handily out of the gate, some of the questions and doubts will fade.
He has the tools—it’s up to James now and how he utilizes his training. Hopefully the hometown guy can make his Hawkeye state more than proud in 2011.