March 26, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- For a guy who doesn't bleed burnt orange, University of Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg has seen more than his share of Texas Longhorn football highlights.
He has been watching Vince Young win 30 games from 2003-05 and Colt McCoy win another 45 from 2006-09. Young and McCoy developed under offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who is now calling plays and growing passers at the University of Iowa.
"I get to watch a lot of Texas film," Vandenberg said. "From Vince Young to Colt McCoy; those guys did about as good as you could do it in college, so being able to watch them run these plays is a great learning tape for me."
Vandenberg did quite well in his first season as a fulltime collegiate starter, too. He completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 3,022 yards and 25 touchdowns...with just seven interceptions, and led the Hawkeyes to a fourth consecutive bowl appearance.
"Obviously James Vandenberg is an outstanding player. I think everybody agrees with that," Davis said. "I'm excited about being able to work with him. There are certain things you can see on tape -- throws from one hash mark to the sideline -- that's kind of a benchmark if they can do that. The other thing I was very excited about is the number of plays he made off schedule."
Vandenberg and the Hawkeyes completed their second workout of the spring Saturday inside Kinnick Stadium.
"It's going well," Vandenberg said. "We have a lot of new things right now, but guys are doing a good job of getting in there and getting extra time to learn things. There are some bumps in the road, but everyone is really excited where we're heading."
Even with a new coordinator, Vandenberg isn't back at square one. He said that once you learn the "ands, ifs, and buts" of a college offense, that is a huge advantage. Now he's ready for his senior season and his second as the Hawkeyes' starting signal-caller.
"This is an awesome opportunity; this is why I came here," Vandenberg said. "Those guys behind me are doing a great job of pushing me, but this is all about getting better as an offense and spring football is a huge part of that."
"He's been able to coach some awesome guys in the past. Just being able to work with him is a privilege for me. He's an awesome guy. He's real intense, real focused, and pays attention to everybody. He has a great Southern accent, gets excited when you complete a good ball down the field and he has everybody excited."
Davis also serves as quarterback coach, a position he held while grooming Young, McCoy, Major Applewhite and Chris Simms at Texas, Hines Ward at Georgia, and Gary Kubiak at Texas A&M.
"He's been able to coach some awesome guys in the past," Vandenberg said. "Just being able to work with him is a privilege for me. He's an awesome guy. He's real intense, real focused, and pays attention to everybody. He has a great Southern accent, gets excited when you complete a good ball down the field and he has everybody excited."
As a team leader with 15 starts under his belt, Vandenberg is attempting to bring the UI offense on the same page as it prepares for its season-opener Sept. 1 against Northern Illinois.
There are an abundance of returning targets for Vandenberg, including wide receivers Keenan Davis, a senior, and Kevonte Martin-Manley, a sophomore, who combined for 80 catches and seven touchdowns a year ago. Three tight ends had at least one reception in 2011: senior Zach Derby (12-117-0), junior C.J. Fiedorowicz (16-167-3) and sophomore Ray Hamilton (1-15-0).
"They're a great group and with Keenan and Kevonte, we're going to have some experience back," Vandenberg said. "You have a guy like (senior) Steve Staggs (5-45-0), who has been here a long time and knows his way around, and then we have a lot of good tight ends who can catch the ball. It's going to be a solid group for us. They're excited about this new offense, new routes and new combinations."
Davis isn't the only newbie on the offensive side of the ball for the Hawkeyes. Brian Ferentz is in his first season as offensive line coach, and although UI quarterbacks were sacked just 22 times last season, Vandenberg wouldn't complain if that number decreased in 2012.
"I'm trying to stay out of Brian's hair," Vandenberg said with a laugh. "He's pretty intense, too, so I kind of want to stay away from him and his linemen. He's doing a great job for us -- that front five has been doing a nice job so far and we get to put some pads on this week and actually go at it."
UI defensive backs coach Darrell Wilson and running backs coach Lester Erb will meet with media Wednesday, March 28, at 12:30 p.m. (CT), with selected players available afterward. That is also when the Hawkeyes return to the field for their third spring practice.