Improvement makes Stanzi attractive to NFL teams

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | APRIL 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Thirty-nine Iowa football players have been selected in the NFL draft during Kirk Ferentz' 12 years as head coach.

None of them have been quarterbacks.

After a senior season in which he threw for 3,004 yards and 25 touchdowns, while cutting his interception total from 15 as a junior to six, Ricky Stanzi is set to become the first Hawkeye signal-caller of the Ferentz era to be drafted.

Wes Bunting, director of college scouting for National Football Post, said he expects Stanzi to be selected in the third round. And most draft outlets rate him between the sixth- and eighth-best quarterback in the draft.

Bunting praised Stanzi 's rhythm and feel in the pocket but said the former Hawkeye doesn't have ideal arm strength and could put up to 20 additional pounds on his 6-4 frame.

Throughout the course of the pre-draft process, Stanzi said he met with "pretty much every team," but couldn't get a read on who planned to draft him. The Mentor, Ohio, native said he didn't pay much attention to speculation on where he would be picked or by which team.

"A lot of that is just what the media say," he said. "It's hard to tell who's interested and who's not, because each team handles everything differently. All you can control is how well you perform."

He said he viewed the pre-draft process simply as a chance to improve. He said he needed to learn to "play faster" in order to match the speed of the NFL game. It would also be important, Stanzi said, to be able to pick up new offenses quickly.

The Senior Bowl on Jan. 29 was an opportunity to do just that. After having to quickly learn an offensive system, Stanzi impressed scouts and evaluators by completing seven of his 12 passes for 87 yards.

"You always want to work on everything, whether it's a perceived strength or a weakness," Stanzi said. "It's about finding a way to get better while you're constantly being evaluated."

The ability to quickly improve may be one of his best selling points to NFL teams. Following a successful but turnover-prone junior season, he became one of the nation's most efficient passers in his final season at Iowa.

"I watched him go from that first year, which was shaky, to that second year which was real up and down, and then that awesome third year," said Hawkeye quarterback James Vandenberg, who was Stanzi's backup for the last two seasons. "I watched all the little changes he made and how he went about his day running the team, studying defenses, studying himself."

Bunting said the quarterback's dramatic development would catch the attention of NFL teams.

"When you throw 15 interceptions as a junior and you cut it down to six, that's going to help no matter what happens," he said. "I think it's just the maturation process of being a senior quarterback. He's going to keep getting better as he develops."

The draft's first round will take place on Thursday night. Stanzi will likely be taken on either the second or third day, which will include rounds two-three and four-seven, respectively. And while he insists he isn't nervous yet, he admits some anxiety might creep in while he sits at home in Ohio with his family and watches the draft unfold.

But Stanzi said he knows what happens after the draft is over will be far more important.

"I'm not really worried right now about a round or a team," he said. "Because in a few years, none of that's going to matter. I'm just worried about what I can do to get better as a quarterback."

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