College Football

Nathan Stanley named Iowa's starting QB

The QB with the 'big, explosive arm' gets the call

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nathan Stanley (4) warms up during the “SWARM Des Moines” football practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines on Friday, Apr. 7, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Nathan Stanley (4) warms up during the “SWARM Des Moines” football practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines on Friday, Apr. 7, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Sometime going into the final weekend before the season, Nathan Stanley was named Iowa’s quarterback.

That info trickled out over the course of the weekend. Finally on Monday morning via a tweet from Iowa’s radio play-by-play announcer Gary Dolphin, Iowa confirmed the sophomore from Menomonie, Wis., won the QB over junior Tyler Wiegers.

In a lot of respects, Stanley was the guy all along. Last fall, Stanley beat Wiegers for the backup QB job behind C.J. Beathard. So, Iowa burned Stanley’s redshirt because it liked him better than Wiegers to replace Beathard in case of emergency. Stanley threw just nine passes.

The meatiest quote during this whole thing came from first-year offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz during an interview with the Big Ten Network.

“Tyler is a little more experienced in the system,” he said. “I think he’s often a little more comfortable just managing the offense and the simple procedural things that happen. And then you’ve got a guy like Nate, who’s a little younger and doesn’t have as much experience with the system, but he’s got a big, explosive arm and can sure throw it a long way.”

When head coach Kirk Ferentz talks about these kinds of decisions — playing a true freshman in a backup role — he always mentions he expects a bigger, healthier bounce from the player as a sophomore. Instead of running opponents’ offenses on scout team last season, Stanley performed Iowa’s offense in practice. We’re not talking about a ton of reps, but Stanley learned how to be an Iowa quarterback rather than run Northwestern’s offense.

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“At the end of the day, we have to do what we think is best for the team,” Brian Ferentz said. “With any personnel decision we make, we always have that conversation and tell the players that we think we are doing what’s best for the team. That is what we have to do. That’s our job and we have to live with that.”

Wiegers started the spring game. He started the open scrimmage on Aug. 12 (Stanley entered after five plays). But when it was time to put it to paper, Stanley was listed No. 1 in the depth chart in the team media guide.

When that came out in late July, Kirk Ferentz said don’t pay attention to it. When today’s comes out, pay attention.

Stanley came out of Menomonie as a 3-star QB according to Rivals’ ranking. His mom, Donita, is from Iowa. Donita and Jay Stanley went to Wartburg College in Waverly. Stanley saw a fit and picked Iowa over Wisconsin in November 2014, not quite two years before he was able to sign a letter of intent.

Stanley passed for 1,728 yards and 16 touchdowns with four interceptions during his senior season at Menomonie (Wis.) High School. He holds school records for passing yards (3,674) and career touchdown passes (36). Stanley was a four-year letterman as quarterback, defensive back and punter.

The 6-5, 235-pounder led Menomonie basketball in scoring as a senior and was clocked as a pitcher with a 90 mph fastball. Stanley controlled the message during his recruiting. He offered few interviews and clicked the “private” option for his Hudl highlight videos.

Stanley also only went to two or three camps in high school.

“We were fortunate he came here, we really were,” said Iowa assistant Seth Wallace, who recruited Stanley. “It was obvious when he got here that this kid was a big-time quarterback. Once we started learning more about him, it became really obvious that we really, really wanted Nate Stanley.”

The ESPN scouting report on Stanley going into his senior season at Menomonie.

“There are times when he will really flash quality arm strength, but needs to get his lower body involved and transfer weight properly. Shows good RPMs and the ability to drive the ball. Ball has a wobble and he does not look like he has great ball control. Has a wild delivery. Can be long and loose. Ball does not pop off his hand — slight wind-up. Needs technical work, but does have quality arm strength.”

Kirk Ferentz pointed out one thing in particular when Stanley signed with the Hawkeyes in 2016.

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“I’ll throw in there, too, he might have the biggest hands of any player I’ve ever shook hands with,” Ferentz said. “I thought he had a baseball glove on the last time I shook his hand. So, that’s a good thing in the Midwest.”

 

 

Iowa’s depth chart came out not long after the Stanley announcement. Some questions were answered.

— Before spring practice started, Kirk Ferentz put out a very plain-spoken “get busy” to sophomore walk-on punter Colten Rastetter.

“Colten has been here a couple years now,” Ferentz said. “He’s at that point where it’s time for him to go. It’s his job to win right now.”

And so Rastetter did just that. The Guttenberg native beat true freshman Ryan Gersonde, who was brought in on scholarship in February.

— It looks like junior Miguel Recinos won the kicking competition against sophomore Keith Duncan. In the one public look at kicker in August, Recinos made 9 of 9, including a 51-yarder, while Duncan made 5 of 9.

Of course, if Rastetter and Recinos don’t take to the jobs, Gersonde and Duncan are right there. It’s a lot easier to switch kicker and punter than it is a QB.

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— Junior wide receiver Matt Quarells made a depth chart appearance. The graduate transfer from New Mexico wasn’t able to join the Hawkeyes until about midway through camp. Kirk Ferentz has said he hopes Quarells will be in position to contribute in September.

— Junior Matt Nelson is listed as a No. 2 defensive tackle. Maybe he’s made the official switch from end, where the Cedar Rapids Xavier grad started all 13 games last year. Nelson battled foot injuries all spring and still made the unselfish move. Junior Parker Hesse, sophomore Anthony Nelson and true freshman A.J. Epenesa likely will be the three primary D-ends.

— Another sign that Kirk Ferentz means business on special teams this year is listing running back Akrum Wadley at kick returner. Also, senior wide receiver Matt VandeBerg is listed as punt returner. Any questions on his left foot, broken twice last year, seem to have diminished.

— There are seven true freshmen (Epenesa, OL Tristan Wirfs, WR Brandon Smith, S Geno Stone, CB Matt Hankins, RB Ivory Kelly-Martin and Gersonde) and four redshirt freshmen (OT Alaric Jackson, C Cole Banwart, CB Cedric Boswell and TE T.J. Hockenson) listed on the depth chart.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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