Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi: Big Ten’s Best QB and MVP

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The list of quarterbacks with true NFL prospects is somewhat low in the Big Ten right now, but Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi seems to have a lot of what is needed for those scouts.

He has size.  He is the best, pure-pocket passer in the league, leading the league in passing efficiency with a 180.3, good for second in the nation. On Saturday, the senior semifinalist for the O’Brien Award had a nearly perfect game, 11-15, 190 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs as the Hawkeyes gave Michigan State their first loss of the season.

By Paul Schmidt

One of the biggest things for the Hawkeyes this season is the pervasive belief that they are the heir apparent to the Big Ten throne, the team most likely to knock off those pesky Ohio State Buckeyes, winners of the last 5 Big Ten titles. Stanzi said that this isn’t something the team is focused on at all, however.

“We haven’t mentioned it, and we haven’t really talked about it as, something like, ‘Hey, we need to go beat Ohio State,” Stanzi said. “We’re, right now, totally focused on our first game, and that’s totally where our focus should be. If we don’t win the first one — if we can’t win all of our other games leading up to Ohio State — then the game isn’t going to be what it is hyped to be.”

One of Stanzi’s big strengths is his pocket-passing presence, and his ability to read the field. Though he threw for more interceptions returned for a touchdown than any other QB in the conference last season, his ability as a pocket passer can’t be questioned.

However, he is aware of what that negative connotation of “pocket passer” is: a slow-moving object.

“Yeah, I really think so, I think people think that’s just a guy who will throw the ball before he runs it. I mean, that’s what I would think,” Stanzi said with a chuckle.

He also doesn’t think that that is necessarily an unfair thing to say about him, and knows that, just based on the schemes, it’s difficult to compare he and, say, Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor.

“Well, I’m not him,” Stanzi said. “I think anyone who has ever watched me play knows that I’m not a runner, and I’m not like Terrelle Pryor. I’m not a runner. I’m not a running quarterback, and we don’t have running plays in for me. I really don’t take any offense to it, because that’s just really not part of our offense, or how it is built.”

“I think if Tom Brady were to line up and run a 40, he would lose to a lot of guys, but I doubt anybody would argue about how great his footwork is inside the pocket, and how well he can get his hips and shoulders through to his target,” Stanzi added. “That type of thing isn’t really talked about because it’s so difficult to measure. You can’t measure it in yardage, you can only see it on game tape.”

Pocket passer or runner, one thing is for certain — Stanzi, will end up on the top-5 of all time lists for Iowa quarterbacks, and while it isn’t a goal, it’s certainly something that he would welcome for one obvious reason.

It’s very interesting — another thing to look at is that I would have played for three years, and someone like Brad Banks, who was a tremendous quarterback, only played one year,” Stanzi said. “So it’s hard to gauge that I have done what I did over a three year span while a lot of guys only play one. It doesn’t mean too much to me, it’s a tremendous honor to be mentioned up there. But as far as any specific goals may have been set or anything like that, that’s just not where anyone on this team aim is right now, to be one of the top five players in Iowa history at any position. We just want to be the best player we can be and put that together and have a great team.”

But, if we have a bunch of guys that are the so-called top five at their position, that means we probably have a pretty good team,” Stanzi conceded. “That’s really the only thing that we can take from that and be satisfied with.”

One of the knocks on the Hawkeyes last year was that almost every game seemed like it came down to the wire, with the Hawkeyes always pulling it out in the end. The “cardiac kids” approach is great, but unless you’re blowing people out of the water every week you aren’t impressing the poll voters. The close games are something that they hope they can avoid this season.

“The more you flirt with that line in close games, the more one or two plays could really just swing a ball game,” Stanzi said. “We’d love to stay away from that. But what you have to understand is, in this conference, a lot of the games are going to be close. You have to be ready for that. If you happen to show up and blow a team out, that’s great, but you really can’t expect it. If we have to go out and make a big play to win, or make a big stand, then we just have to be ready to go out and do that.”

In that same vein, is that how he would explain the fact that Northwestern has owned Iowa the last few seasons?

“People think that it doesn’t make sense, but it does if you know football,” Stanzi said. “They’re well coached, have an aggressive defense and have an offense that can score a lot of points. And when you combine all that, they have flat-out beaten us at our place. That’s really where that is.”

One thing that really jumps out while talking to Stanzi, even while he is in a suit and tie, are the, quite literally, dozen rubber-band bracelets that he has on each wrist. The bracelets are similar to the Livestrong ones, and are there as a method of support for some very special Hawkeye fans, and as a reminder for himself in general.

“They are support bands for kids at our childrens’ hospital who have sicknesses like cancer, problems with their kidneys, diseases like that,” Stanzi said. “We visited them as teammates, we’ve gone over to the hospital, and over time they tend to pile up. I’d rather not have them there — That would mean that there’s less sick kids in the world — but that’s just the reality of thing. It’s really just a way that we can show support for them, and realizing that what we do is on a pretty small scale compared to the battle that they’re going through and how tough that is for them. Any way that we can help, we feel it’s awesome for us to be able to go over and spend some time with them.”

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