An Oral History Of Iowa's Quarterbacks Under Kirk Ferentz
By Marc Morehouse, Reporter
EVANSTON, Ill. - During Kirk Ferentz’s first years as Iowa head coach, the quarterback position came with a turnstile.
Kyle McCann one week, Randy Reiners the next and then finally Scott Mullen is how it went in 1999. After a brief stop with Jon Beutjer and a “brotherly abrasion,” the next season, McCann went from No. 1 to No. 3 and then back to No. 1, where he lasted through 2001.
That seems to be when Ferentz decided it was going to be on “one quarterback to rule them all,” to paraphrase “The Lord of the Rings.”
So, it was McCann in ’01, with some of that one guy Brad Banks. Banks took over in ’02 and rode a rocketship to No. 2 in the Heisman Trophy voting. Then, it was Nathan Chandler, a 6-7 giant with a strange throwing motion, and his 10-3 run and Outback Bowl victory over Ron Zook and Florida.
The little guy behind Chandler took over in ’04. Drew Tate’s athleticism and just plain ornery nature carried Iowa to a share of a Big Ten title. He stayed two more seasons, with each descending the ladder of success.
Jake Christensen took over in ’07, Iowa’s only bowl-less season in the last 11. He was relieved by all-around American Ricky Stanzi, who just won games, finishing with a 26-9 record as Iowa’s starter.
When Stanzi’s ankle was exploded against Northwestern during Iowa’s magical ’09, he was replaced by a fresh-faced freshman named James Vandenberg.
In his 13-plus seasons as Iowa’s coach, Ferentz has had 10 primary starters at QB.
Here’s a decidedly incomplete oral history of Ferentz and his QBs during this span.
10/30/99 – ”There’s no truth to it,” Steve McCann told the Creston New Advertiser of the rumors on his son’s transfer from Iowa. “I have no idea where they got their information.”
10/17/99 – ”It was kind of a gut thing. There’s no exact science. I thought a move was merited at this point. We’re going to give him (Mullen) a look right now” — Ferentz on picking Mullen over McCann.
10/23/99 — More from Ferentz on that move: “Quarterbacks come in all shapes and sizes,” Ferentz said. “Some guys just have that knack for moving a football team.
“The final analysis is to get the right guy to fit the program. You’re looking for a guy who can move the football team and who has leadership abilities. If he’s a drop-back guy, so be it. If he’s an option guy, so be it.”
11/22/99 — During his run, Reiners dealt with an inflamed disc at the base of his neck. Gary Reiners, his father, said Randy had so much swelling in that area he’s hardly been able to put a helmet on the last couple weeks.
“I think on that bus ride home, he felt 30 years old, or maybe even 40 or 50 after being hit as hard as he was,” senior safety Matt Bowen said Tuesday. “Randy’s not like one of those quarterbacks you see in the pros, who run down the field and take a dive, slide feet first. He likes contact, but with contact comes the price you pay of feeling it the next day.”
9/30/00 — Beutjer, who threw 60 TDs his senior year of high school, is announced as the starter vs. Indiana.
“I think it’s Boot-jer, but how about Jon. I know it’s Jon, I know that,” Ferentz said. “I know it’s without an “H,” is that right?”
4/15/01 – There was a three-way race for QB in ’01, right around the time America was counting chads in the Bush-Gore election.
“I hope we don’t have to do one of those recalls,” Ferentz joked. “I think (the decision) will be very subjective. Unless things change, I don’t think there’s anything clear cut right now.”
8/02/01 — Beutjer-Aiello fight comes to light.
“We’ve always acted like a big family and sometimes there are abrasions within the family,” Iowa Athletics Director Bob Bowlsby said.
“It’s a non-institutional matter. It’s not something that we’re involved with in any way, shape or form. The families aren’t involved in anything. It’s gotten blown way out of proportion. There’s nothing at all to it.”
Ferentz’s first reaction: ”To me, it’s not newsworthy, anyway. If anything escalates, we’ll let you know,” he said.
8/29/01 – Beutjer quits.
“He just said very briefly that his desire was to transfer to another school,” Ferentz said.
8/23/01 — Ferentz on Brad Banks, while McCann and Beutjer were still ahead of him.
“He’s got a live arm, a quick release and he’s got some escapability back there. He can pull the ball down and run with it a little bit,” Ferentz said. “I do envision us putting him out there on the field and giving him some snaps … He’s going to be a guy who changes
the tempo of the game.”
3/28/01 — Ferentz on McCann sticking with it.
“To his credit, he’s remained focused on being the quarterback at the University of Iowa,” Ferentz said. “He’s taken some tough blows. The day we moved Jon up, Jon was the only one happy about that.
“Kyle was mad, I said, hey fine, be mad at me. I’m OK with that. It never took away from his preparation, his focus, and that says an awful lot about a young guy. And when he got his chance, I really thought he took advantage.”
4/21/02 – Banks takes off.
“This has been the first chance for Brad to be the first-team quarterback and run the team and move,” Ferentz said. “He
handled today and he handled it all spring. I like his demeanor out there.”
8/22/02 – This is Ferentz on Banks during media day ’02.
“We were fooling around in Mississippi a little bit,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That’s how it all worked out. It wasn’t like we were looking for a junior college quarterback.”
10/06/02 – Banks vs. Purdue.
“Bottom line is, when we needed it, we had it,” Ferentz said. “We weren’t perfect out there, I think everybody recognizes that. But the outcome was just beautiful.”
12/14/02 – Ferentz on Banks from NYC. (Iowa spent $2,000 on Banks’ Heisman campaign.)
“Quarterbacks have to be playmakers, how ever they do it. That’s the bottom line,” Ferentz said. “He wins with his feet, he wins with his arm. More importantly, it’s what he’s doing with his head. He does not put us in a bad position. I think during Big Ten play, what else can you ask of your quarterback?
“He’s given us great leadership. The guys believe in Brad.”
12/15/02 – From the Heisman ceremony.
“I’m sure he had to be a little disappointed,” said Ferentz, who, at the urging of his assistants, skipped Saturday’s Orange Bowl practice and attended the ceremonies. “But to put this in perspective, Brad started his first game in college back in August.
“There was something about Brad even in the recruiting process that jumped out. We’ve always had a great feeling about Brad.”
1/04/03 – On Banks from the Orange Bowl.
“It’s like when we recruited him, we recruited him strictly as a quarterback,” Ferentz said. “Good quarterbacks are hard to find, good ones who’ll help your team win.”
3/26/03 – Ferentz’s first thoughts on Chandler.
“Just looking at the players involved, I think we’ll keep an open mind to any scenario,” Ferentz said. “We’re going to do what gives us the best chance to win. If it works out that way (dual QBs), that is a possibility.
“That wasn’t bad for us. But we’re not going to do it just to do it. We’re going to need a reason for it.”
1/02/04 Ferentz after Chandler helped Iowa beat Florida, 37-17, in the ’04 Outback.
“It’s kind of symbolic of the way the team’s been this year and kind of symbolic of the way his season went,” Ferentz
said. “He did have his worst game at Wisconsin, put us in a tough hole. I thought he played an extremely smart game today.
“It’s something he’s done all season long. He’s bounced back from bad experiences and come back strong.”
12/30/03 — Ferentz had a different QB in his first five years at Iowa.
“Obviously, we’d like to get to the point where a younger guy is going to take over and eventually, maybe we’ll have a guy for a couple years,” Ferentz said.
9/18/04 — Early thoughts on Tate.
“He’s a beauty. He’s a high-energy,” Ferentz said. “Big contrast from last year. Nathan (Chandler) was a flatline. This guy, woo-hooo. Most of the time, woo-hooo.”
9/30/04 – Helmetless Tate at Michigan, when Iowa lost 30-17 and then didn’t lose the rest of the season.
“That was a pretty powerful picture, a pretty powerful picture,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “When you get guys with that kind of focus and intensity, people will follow a guy like that.”
11/08/04 – Ferentz on Tate after Iowa’s 23-21 victory over Purdue in ’04.
“I don’t know what his 40 (-yard dash) time is and I’m not going to time him now, I’m not going to worry about it,” Ferentz said. “He’s got excellent feet, but a lot of his escape-ability is beyond athleticism. It’s just having a feel, a sense, a savvy, whatever it might be.
“The second part is when he comes out of there, he has the ability to make plays. He gets his eyes downfield. When you face a guy like that, it gets a little bit interesting, so I’m glad he’s on our side right now.”
11/17/04 Tate, lack of running game turned Iowa into pass-first in ’04.
“It’s our job as coaches to be realistic about who and what we are each and every day and week,” Ferentz said. “That’s where we are. I don’t think things are going to change an awful lot throughout this week.
“We’ll have a chance to regroup in December and see where we’re at, but I think we’re pretty much on a given path at this point.”
11/21/04 – Ferentz after Iowa, Tate clinched share of Big Ten title.
“He’s got a little magic to him.”
12/31/06 – Two years, an injured abdominal muscle and thumb, Ferentz on Tate’s final game, the ’06 Alamo Bowl.
“I can go right down the list, a lot of seniors stepped up today,” Ferentz said, “and I don’t think (one) any more important that Drew Tate. He’s had a tough year in a lot of regards, physically, mentally, and, boy, he gave us every chance to win today.”
8/26/07 – Christensen arrives.
“We’ve won two (Big Ten) championships,” Ferentz said. “We had Drew, who’s very demonstrative. Whatever he’s thinking, that’s what he’s going to say. At the other end of the spectrum, we had Brad Banks, who was one of the most placid, calm guys I’ve ever been around. You weren’t quite sure what he was thinking even if you looked at his face. But both had some very strong leadership qualities.
“I think Jake is somewhere in the middle. I’ve been very, very impressed with how he has handled things recently.”
9/21/08 – Christensen’s final start at Pitt, a 21-20 loss, when Stanzi was making noise as the back-up.
“Probably more of a gut thing than anything else,” Ferentz said. “I just felt like at halftime Jake (Christensen) had a little better feel for what was going on, particularly what they were doing defensively. Thought he gave us the best opportunity to win the football game.”
9/24/08 — Stanzi’s arrival and why him over Christensen.
“I know I took a little bit of a lashing for my ‘gut feeling,’ but I can’t share everything I observe or everything I think,” Ferentz said. “I’m just not comfortable doing that. There are certain things that are for me and our coaches to visit with and think about.
“There are certain things that don’t need to be talked about with everybody. Again, it’s not like there’s something diabolic or something gurgling or going on, it’s nothing like that at all. I don’t feel like I need to share everything I think to everybody at all times.”
1/06/10 – Stanzi returned for the Orange Bowl after having surgery on his ankle following an injury during the Northwestern game. He
helped Iowa to its most significant bowl victory since the ’59 Rose Bowl with 17 of 29 for 231 yards, two TDs and a pick six.
“It was great having Rick back,” Ferentz said.
11/18/09 – Vandenberg went in for Stanzi against Northwestern. In an impossible situation, he completed 9 of 27.
“I think James will be a better player next week,” Ferentz said. “I’m not going to say he’ll be comfortable, that’s a very tough environment we’re going to walk into. I forgot about that.”
11/15/09 – Ferentz above referred to Vandenberg’s first start, at Ohio State with a Rose Bowl berth on the line. Iowa fell in OT, 27-24.
“We’ve had the luxury of being around him for 15 months or something like that,” Ferentz said. “He’s been very impressive with everything he’s had to deal with and handle. We had confidence. He showed good poise and leadership traits and mental and physical toughness.
“This was his first real game. And I really compliment him. He gave us a chance to win the football game.”
10/24/12 – This is Ferentz on Vandenberg this week. The senior goes into today’s game at Northwestern with a 12-9 record as Iowa’s starter.
“He’s our starting quarterback, if that’s what you’re asking. We all believe in James. I think I speak for everybody involved in our program, team and coaches.”
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