Can you say Heismanzi?

BY J.T. BUGOS | NOVEMBER 04, 2010 7:20 AM

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Ricky Stanzi is a catalyst.

The senior signal-caller won't admit it himself, but his improved play has vaulted Iowa's offense up the national leaderboards. Last year, the Hawkeyes averaged 23.15 points per game, which ranked 86th in the country. This year, they average 34.13 points per contest — 26th in the nation.

"I think Rick's been the catalyst for that, really," offensive lineman Julian Vandervelde said. "Just his effort, his work ethic, the time he puts in here at the [Hayden Fry Football] Complex … We get out on the practice field, and if the scout team lines up wrong, he knows based on what play we're running what defense they're supposed to be in, and he'll switch guys around and physically move people the way they're supposed to be.

"I think that his work ethic, his attitude about running the offense has just trickled down to everybody else and helps us have the confidence to play with the sort of efficiency we've been able to."

Stanzi has improved his passer rating nearly 50 points over last season, and he ranks second in the nation at 180.28 — the highest rating for a quarterback in a BCS conference.

Wes Bunting, the director of college scouting for the National Football Post, attributes Stanzi's progression to better protection of the football and a better job recognizing defenses. After throwing 15 interceptions last year, Stanzi has just two this season.

"He's a leader, a winner. He's one of those guys that gives off that 'it' factor," Bunting said. "He has a good enough arm to make all the throws. Not a great arm, he can't be late with the read, but he can make all the throws.

"He's a winner on the field."

Stanzi's passer rating is sandwiched between two of the top Heisman trophy contenders in the country — Boise State's Kellen Moore and Auburn's Cam Newton — but Stanzi has thrown for more yards and touchdowns than either.

And so whispers of the Heisman Trophy have trickled into Kinnick Stadium.

"I think you look at his stats," Vandervelde said. "And you put his stats up against anybody else, and you look at the kind of leader he is and his record as the starting quarterback here, his efficiency rating, his completions, the improvement he made from last year to this year, and what he means to this football team — and I do think that he should be in the Heisman race."

Wide receiver Marvin McNutt, who referred to Stanzi as "my leader," said if he had a vote for the Heisman, it would go to his quarterback. And after comparing Stanzi to former Iowa great Chuck Long — the school record holder for both career passing yards and touchdowns — head coach Kirk Ferentz said the Heisman ceremony shouldn't lack Black and Gold.

"He's playing at a pretty high rate, and if he wants to go to New York, our team can help him by winning a lot more games," Ferentz said. "That's the first thing you have to do, typically, to get out there is play on a real good team. It all goes hand in hand, but if they were selecting today, I would think he'd have to at least be in the discussion. I don't know how big a group it'd be, but he'd have to be in it."

But fawning over stats or whispers of Heisman are lost on Stanzi. Iowa's catalyst? Eight or nine different guys, he said.

And does he even realize his numbers are worthy of the most coveted individual award in college football?

"No," he said. "And I don't really care."

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