It might not be easy to believe, but for once in a long while, the best quarterback in the Big Ten could be a player from Iowa. Iowa is certainly not a slouch for producing college quarterbacks, but you typically will see a school like Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, or someone else boast the top signal caller in the conference simply because they almost always recruit better prospects.
In this case, Iowa’s James Vandenberg has come from being a High School All-American and one of the most dominant Iowa high school athletes of all-time to be the most important player at the most important position on the most popular team in the state of Iowa.
He’s living his childhood dream, in other words.
The hometown hero is a rarity for Iowa fans, who are used to very conservative quarterback play and to be frank, really average to below-average quarterback play. The Hawkeyes have not seen an elite player at the QB position since Brad Banks was the Heisman runner-up to Carson Palmer back in 2002-03.
Now, the Hawkeyes have a guy who could potentially be this year’s version of a Kirk Cousins, an underrated player who plays with a chip on his shoulder and has the leadership that NFL teams crave in a quarterback. Now, he is playing under former Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis who has seen some incredible passing performances in his coaching tenure, specifically from college legends Vince Young and Colt McCoy.
The Iowa passing game will most certainly open up, at least that’s what we would have to assume, but if it sticks with a more conservative approach like the one Ken O’Keefe infamously employed over the last few years. Iowa has so often relied upon their ability to be dominant defensively and use a ground-and-pound running game to wear opposing teams down, but it would be nice to see Vandenberg be able to cut loose and have a monster senior season. Here is my report on Vandenberg for last year.
Vandenberg has good size at the quarterback position and has gotten very good over the course of the 2011 season at making pre-snap reads and recognizing blitzes/coverages, and he has done a much better job in recent weeks of spreading the ball. There is no doubt he loves to lock on to his favorite target, wide receiver Marvin McNutt who is arguably the best WR in Iowa football history, but he still does a good job of finding the open receiver. One thing that Vandenberg will have to do is continue to go through progressions. He likes to make his reads before the snap and hit the quick out, slant, or go route by recognizing what the defense is doing before he even gets the ball. He is a very smart player in that regard, but in the NFL, defenses are going to do a lot better job of disguising blitzes. That is where another year at Iowa could really benefit Vandenberg. He has a very strong arm and is capable of making every throw. Not a scrambler by any means, but definitely a good athlete and a solid field general. Better NFL prospect than the guy he replaced, Ricky Stanzi.
PROS: Size, athletic ability, football pedigree, leadership, strong arm, pre-snap, mental toughness, great potential, very solid in the pocket, play-action becoming a big strength as well, quick release
CONS: Post-snap reads (developing), sometimes misses easy throws, needs to get better at playing well on the road, still very raw