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Legends: QB position is pressure-packed

[ 0 ] March 9, 2013 |

The icons of Iowa football share your curiosity.

More than 50 years have passed since Randy Duncan played quarterback for his alma mater, but even in the age of Twitter, taking a snap for the Hawkeyes means seizing the heartstrings of everyone who bleeds black and gold.

That’s why Duncan expressed empathy for whoever emerges as the starter this season.

“I feel sorry for the guy,” he said. “It’s going to be tough.”

Duncan joined Chuck Long, Chuck Hartlieb and Brad Banks — an Iowa quartet with a combined 23,239 passing yards and 165 touchdowns — for a gathering last week of the Iowa Football Club in West Des Moines.

As it turns out, the four luminaries echoed many of the same questions and concerns as fans throughout the state.

“The guy who is taking the job this year, he’s got a lot of pressure on him,” said Duncan, a Heisman Trophy runner-up in 1958. “I don’t know what to think about the situation.

“It’s a whole different ballgame.”

The departure of James Vandenberg, following a 4-8 finish last fall, leaves Iowa with three unproven replacements: Jake Rudock, C.J. Beathard and Cody Sokol. None has thrown a single pass for the Hawkeyes.

“It looks like at this point and time it’s wide-open,” said Long, a Heisman runner-up in 1985. “This could be a situation where they go all the way to right before the (opening) game before they name a guy.”

Vandenberg seemed to regress under first-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis — throwing just seven touchdowns in 389 attempts, an average of one for every 55.6 passes — but it wasn’t all his fault.

“I think clearly what happened last year was a little lack of depth at the wide receiver position,” said Hartlieb, who threw for more than 3,000 yards in 1987 and ’88. “That was more of a hindrance than anything going on with the quarterback position.

“I think if you get two or three receivers who really step up and play Big Ten, NCAA Division I football, you’re going to get very good play from the quarterback.”

A strong rushing attack would also help.

“With their system at Iowa, you don’t have to do everything at the quarterback position,” Long said. “It’s not like some systems, where they’re throwing all the time and they really depend on that position to win games.

“It’s more managing the game.”

Managing off-field scrutiny, however, is another matter.

When Banks finished second in the 2002 Heisman voting, Internet message boards were in their infancy.

“I got out of there just in time,” Banks said with a laugh. “It makes it easier for the fans to reach out to you, connect with you.

“It could be good. It could be bad. It can go both ways.”

Even before social media blossomed, Hawkeye quarterbacks were burdened by expectations.

“Some kids never figure it out, from the standpoint you have to get past the intensity, the attention, and just focus on your job,” Hartlieb said. “I honestly struggled for three years, because of that. The pressure and the intensity of it was just something that made me a little bit too distracted, maybe a little bit too anxious at times.

“It wasn’t until my fourth year that I settled down, figured out what the job was all about.”

Rudock, Beathard and Sokol will be on an accelerated learning curve.

“Everything has got this new twist to it,” Duncan said of modern schemes, “but they’re still playing football, throwing it and running it.”

What advice would a former quarterback offer?

“To be themselves,” Banks said. “To study your craft and perfect it. It’s that simple.

“The fans are going to support you.”

Hartlieb added: “I’ve been watching Iowa football now for 30 years and I’ve said to everyone who will listen, it’s not one on that side of the ball, it’s 11.”

The next few months should provide plenty of intrigue, even for an icon.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Long said, “to see how it all plays out.”

NEXT IN LINE

A quick look at the three likely candidates to be Iowa’s next starting quarterback:

JAKE RUDOCK

Size: 6-3, 200 pounds

Grade: Sophomore

Hometown: Weston, Fla.

The skinny: Redshirted in 2011 … was named offensive player of the year by Miami Herald … pre-medicine major.<EL,3>

C.J. BEATHARD

Size: 6-2, 180 pounds

Grade: Freshman

Hometown: Franklin, Tenn.

The skinny: Runner-up for “Mr. Football Award” in Tennessee as a senior … Threw for 2,148 yards, 23 touchdowns, completing 64 percent.<EL,3>

CODY SOKOL

Size: 6-2, 205 pounds

Grade: Junior

Hometown: Phoenix, Ariz.

The Skinny: Transfer from Scottsdale Community College … Also drew interest from Arizona, Cincinnati and Florida International … three-star prospect.

LIFE AWAY FROM FOOTBALL

RANDY DUNCAN

The former Hawkeye football all-American and Drake law school graduate was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor, but says doctors have been encouraging. “I’m battling,” he said. “I’m feeling good and I’m working at it. And I think I’m going to be OK.”<EL,3>

CHUCK LONG

After a coaching career that included three years as the head man at San Diego State, Long cherished his time tutoring son Zach, who will walk on at Oklahoma. “It’s a lot different when you’re coaching and your son is out there,” Long said. “He’s finished (high school), so I’m looking right now at a possible transition out of coaching. I’m looking at all options at this point.”<EL,3>

CHUCK HARTLIEB

A financial adviser for UBS Securities, Hartlieb was able to coach his son, Dan, who played quarterback for West Des Moines Dowling Catholic. “He was a sponge,” Hartlieb said. “From that standpoint, I knew he was always on. I knew he was always focused. I never raised my voice. I just threw everything at him that I could. I didn’t twist his arm. I didn’t have to do that. He just absorbed it all.”<EL,3>

BRAD BANKS

After quarterbacking Iowa’s unbeaten run through the 2002 Big Ten schedule, Banks spent time in the Canadian Football League and with the Iowa Barnstormers. He now devotes his efforts to “Racers Against ALS,” a foundation that helps victims and their families. “It’s a good cause,” Banks said, “and I’m enjoying it every step of the way.”

SUMMER YOUTH CAMP

The Iowa Football Club, a group made up entirely of former Hawkeye football players, coaches, trainers, managers and support staff, hosted a gathering last week.

It was their Legends of Iowa football camp kickoff event, featuring former quarterbacks Randy Duncan, Chuck Long, Chuck Hartlieb and Brad Banks. The camp will be held at Waukee High School on July 11-13. For more information, go to: legendsofiowa.com.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Andrew Logue: Andrew has been with the Des Moines Register for 19 years, covering everything from preps to Hawkeye and Cyclone sports, as well as the Drake Relays. View author profile.

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