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There's a lot of Ricky in James
UI offensive coordinator notices similarities between QBs Stanzi and Vandenberg
University of Iowa junior quarterback James Vandenberg makes a throw at practice Tuesday inside Kinnick Stadium.
University of Iowa junior quarterback James Vandenberg makes a throw at practice Tuesday inside Kinnick Stadium.
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Aug. 9, 2011

Tuesday Practice Photos 

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe sees a lot of Ricky Stanzi in James Vandenberg, which should make the transition at quarterback on football Saturdays a bit easier for the Hawkeyes.

Stanzi completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 7,377 yards and 56 touchdowns during his UI career before being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in April. Vandenberg, a fourth-year junior, has played in seven games the past two seasons. 2011 Football graphic insert

"They're not that different as far as the type of guys that they are," said O'Keefe, who is entering his 13th season with the program. "They're not running quarterbacks, so they're the same guy in a lot of ways.

"I don't see them as different people, as far as their overall ability is concerned. The thing that will emerge is what throws James makes better, and those will be the things that we'll hang our hat on."

As close as Stanzi and Vandenberg are athletically, O'Keefe says they are on the opposite ends of the spectrum personality-wise.

"Both of them are leaders, but they do it differently," he said. "Both have personalities that are magnetic, and they command respect of their teammates, but their personalities are different. One guy is more of a skateboarder type of guy (Stanzi), while the other is a hunter-fisherman type of guy (Vandenberg)."





"Both of them are leaders, but they do it differently. Both have personalities that are magnetic, and they command respect of their teammates, but their personalities are different. One guy is more of a skateboarder type of guy (Stanzi), while the other is a hunter-fisherman type of guy (Vandenberg)."
Ken O'Keefe
UI offensive coordinator


Vandenberg, who is in his third year as a member of Iowa's Leadership Group, steps into the role as Iowa's starting signal-caller having not even thrown 100 passes in college. He enters the 2011 season having completed 47-of-95 passes for 515 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, he was 5-of-8 for 45 yards with one touchdown.

It was during his sophomore season that Vandenberg began to grasp what was expected of him as a Hawkeye quarterback.

"James began to understand exactly what to do, especially in the run game, which is a big part of what we're all about," said O'Keefe. "That allowed him to separate himself (and become the clear No. 2 behind Stanzi). He's a smart guy; he knows what is going on and really studies everything hard."

Now the Hawkeyes are looking for someone to emerge as the team's back-up behind Vandenberg. Junior John Wienke and redshirt freshman A.J. Derby are the vying for the position.

"All three quarterbacks are different," said O'Keefe. "If you look at A.J., the thing that makes him different than the other two guys is he can move his feet. John's strength is throwing the ball down field. James is a guy that can do both. He's a guy that can move his feet and throw the ball down field.

"They're all smart guys, they can make the decisions we need to have them make during the ball game, and that is important to our system."

In an ideal world, the quarterback position roles would sort themselves out on the practice field, but there are only so many snaps and throws to go around during fall camp leading up to the first game Sept. 3 inside Kinnick Stadium.

"You give a lot of thought to it this time of year, but there are only so many reps," said O'Keefe. "It doesn't matter how much you think about it, a lot of it is going to be done in meeting rooms and other places.

"The mentality of those guys has to be that they are going to prepare like the starter is going to prepare -- that's step No. 1. If we can get that accomplished, then we're heading in the right direction. It occurs a lot of different ways. Whoever grabs the bulls by the horn is who is going to be the guy. That's how it works itself out naturally, way more than you would imagine."

Whoever steps under center, O'Keefe will do his best to put them in position to lead the team.

"Every quarterback has things that he does better," said O'Keefe. "Part of my job is making sure we call those plays and find ways to get the quarterback in those situations."

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