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Hawkeye position previews: Quarterbacks

BY BEN ROSS | AUGUST 31, 2012 6:30 AM

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James Vandenberg knows what it’s like to be a part of an elite team.

He had a front-row seat behind Ricky Stanzi as a freshman on Iowa’s 2009 Orange Bowl squad, and he even started two games when Stanzi was hurt.

Vandenberg got a taste during that 11-2 season, and now he’s ready for more.

“You want to have that successful senior year,” he said. “We’re not content with 7-5 and 4-4 in the Big Ten.”

The senior from Keokuk, Iowa, went 7-6 during his first year as a starter in 2011. Many have questioned his ability to win on the road — five of those losses came away from Kinnick Stadium.

Vandenberg’s best attribute might be his accuracy. He passed for 3,022 yards through the air, with 25 touchdowns and a completion rate of just under 60 percent.

With the arrival of offensive coordinator Greg Davis from Texas, and the lack of an established running back on the roster, Vandenberg will likely have to throw early and often in order for the Hawkeye offense to score. He said he expects to play out of four-wide receiver sets often this year.

Davis had high praise for Vandenberg, citing the quarterback’s grasp of the playbook and work ethic.

“I have been very pleased with him,” Davis said. “He’s an extremely bright guy, and he’s a gym rat. He’s always watching film. He’s really, really embraced the change in what we’re doing, and I think he’s on track to have an outstanding year.”

Davis compared Vandenberg with some high-profile quarterbacks he coached in Austin, citing national-championship winner Vince Young and four-year starter Colt McCoy.

“Colt was maybe the most accurate guy statistically to ever play. James is very similar,” Davis said. “He’s got the ability to put the ball where only we can make a play. He’s really studying the game.”

Vandenberg has the targets available to help him continue making a name for himself as an elite passer in the Big Ten. Returning wide receivers Keenan Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley accounted for more than 1,000 yards combined last year, and big tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has generated plenty of media attention this off-season.

Teammates buy into the hype surrounding their quarterback, too. Backup Jake Rudock said that Vandenberg is the undisputed leader of this football squad.

“Anytime you actually get a chance to hear what he has to tell you, you listen,” Rudock said. “He has so much knowledge, and you just try to capture every bit of it. He’s definitely the leader of the team. He gets everyone ready, and that’s the job of the quarterback: to get the team ready.”

Still, all this hype is for nothing if Vandenberg can’t lead Iowa to a better win-loss record this season. And Vandenberg knows it.

“We didn’t come here to go 7-5,” he said.


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