Even former Iowa quarterback Brad Banks struggled to be positive near the end of Saturday’s 38-14 loss to Penn State.
We crossed paths in the press box at Kinnick Stadium and the guy whose mother once described him as being happy with just the birds flying above his head was sad for his beloved alma mater.
Banks was hurting for Iowa senior quarterback James Vandenberg. In fact, Banks told me not to be too critical of Vandenberg in my game column.
That’s Banks for you, loyal and protective no matter what.
Banks is also just what Iowa needs at the quarterback position.
There is no way to address the problem before Saturday’s game at Northwestern, and probably not before national signing day in February.
But sooner rather than later, the Iowa coaches have to intensify their search for some dual-threat quarterbacks.
There are none on the current roster, and Iowa’s lone quarterback commitment as of now is 6-foot-4 Nic Shimonek from Corsicana, Texas, who is considered more of a traditional drop-back passer.
The more you watch Iowa’s offense under first-year coordinator Greg Davis, the more it seems suited for a dual-threat quarterback with the combination of short, horizontal passes and single-back formations.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t budge after Saturday’s loss, which lowered Iowa’s records to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in the Big Ten. Ferentz seems determined to stick with Vandenberg, which is either Ferentz being incredibly stubborn or he truly believes that backup Jake Rudock isn’t ready yet.
“Right now, James is our quarterback,” Ferentz said Saturday.
We got spoiled with Banks, with how easy he made the game look as the best dual-threat quarterback in school history.
He’d be the first to say that he benefited from playing with a star-studded cast, but Banks was the straw that stirred Iowa’s potent and diverse attack in 2002. He was a dual-threat quarterback in the truest sense because it was hard to say if was a better runner or thrower.
Of all the plays that stood out during that magical season in which Banks finished runner-up for the 2002 Heisman Trophy, his quarterback draw against Purdue is something Iowa fans haven’t seen from one of their quarterbacks since.
The game is evolving rapidly on offense with more teams relying on dual-threat quarterbacks to offset the defensive speed factor.
Outside of Alabama, Oklahoma and the University of Southern California, it’s hard to think of any elite programs that still use a traditional drop-back quarterback on a regular basis.
Alabama, Oklahoma and USC can still do it because the talent surrounding their quarterback is usually exceptional, especially from a speed standpoint. Often the quarterback for those three teams also is exceptional.
That’s not the case at Iowa, nor will it ever be.
Perhaps the greatest advantage to having a dual-threat quarterback is the ability to extend plays after things break down in the pocket. Iowa doesn’t have that ability right now because when the play breaks down, Vandenberg usually breaks down.
His predecessor, Ricky Stanzi, wasn’t much different, although Stanzi seemed better than Vandenberg at buying time in the pocket and seeing the entire field.
Former Iowa quarterback Drew Tate possessed some dual-threat skills, but unlike Banks, he wasn’t a major threat to run. Tate was more elusive in the pocket than he was in the open field.
Ferentz might dismiss this column as being an over-reaction to Saturday’s collapse under the lights.
Maybe it is, but how do you explain the rise in dual-threat quarterbacks? It’s even happening in the NFL.
The game is spreading out at all levels and that’s making it so players have to perform more in space.
Ferentz tried to capitalize on Banks’ success a decade ago by recruiting several dual-threat quarterbacks, including Jason Manson, Eric McCollom and Tate to a certain extent. However, Tate was the only one among the three to earn a starting position at Iowa.
Ferentz also tried to sign dual-threat quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, whose father played defensive back at Iowa in the 1980s under Hayden Fry. Scheelhaase ultimately picked Illinois, where he now starts as a junior.
Ferentz also was one of the first coaches to offer a scholarship to dual-threat quarterback Dimonic McKinzy, who is currently a high school junior from Kansas City, Kan.
So it’s not as if Ferentz is against using a dual-threat quarterback. He’s tried to get a few while at Iowa. He just needs to try harder — as Saturday’s game so painfully demonstrated.
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or email@example.com.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football