Plenty of competition at QB for Iowa this spring

March 30, 2009
Iowa quarterbacks Ricky Stanzi (12) and John Wienke (14) workout during the team's practice Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at the Kenyon Football Practice Facility on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa quarterbacks Ricky Stanzi (12) and John Wienke (14) workout during the team's practice Wednesday, March 25, 2009 at the Kenyon Football Practice Facility on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Expectations were low for Iowa quarterback Rick Stanzi when he entered spring football last spring.

Stanzi had played in only two games in 2007, throwing the ball just four times with one interception. Jake Christensen had started all 12 games in 2007 and the quarterback job was his to lose.

“It is interesting last year at this time (Stanzi) wasn’t prominent in my thoughts,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “That’s the neat thing about college football, I think, is a year ago he was down in the depth chart a little bit and really didn’t distinguish himself, I don’t think, until during the course of the spring. That’s when I thought maybe we had a little bit of a battle. I’m not sure we knew that going in.”

Stanzi’s battle with Christensen stretched from summer through early fall. Each player started two of Iowa’s first four games and both quarterbacks played with limited success. Following a one-point road loss at Pittsburgh, Ferentz ended the rotation by declaring Stanzi the starter.

The move seemed to pay off. Stanzi won eight of his 11 starts, including an upset of previously unbeaten Penn State and an Outback Bowl victory against South Carolina. He threw for 1,956 yards and 14 touchdowns. While he enters the season as the clear favorite for the starting position, Stanzi also will face challengers, Ferentz said.

“Good players expect competition and thrive on it and like it,” Ferentz said. “Obviously, Rick’s got a lot of things he can do better and should do better because he’s made a lot of first-time mistakes which all players make. Quarterbacks’ errors are a little more prominent obviously, that’s the downside.

“We’re hoping he can really refine his play.”

Red-shirt freshmen James Vandenberg and John Wienke enter spring football as Stanzi’s backups. Like Stanzi last year, both players have an opportunity to challenge the incumbent with a solid spring.

“Rick is clearly the favorite but we’re hoping both those guys can press him and make him better,” Ferentz said. “That’s what the thing’s all about, good competition out there and those guys both have a lot to learn. They were on the scout team last year, but we tried to give them some work in our offense. Both of them seem to be quick learners, so it’s going to be interesting to watch and see what they do and see where they’re at after 15 practices.”

Vandenberg, who stands 6-foot-3 and weighs 205 pounds, terrorized the Iowa high school record book after his senior season at Class 3A Keokuk. He holds 12 different state records, including career passing yards (7,709), single-season passing yards (3,729), career touchdown passes (93) and single-season touchdown passes (47).

Wienke (6-5, 220) also dominated high school football, throwing for 6,070 yards and 68 touchdowns at his high school in Tuscola, Ill.

“They’re a lot alike in a lot of ways,” Ferentz said. “They’ve got great personalities, they love football, they love being on he field, they make you feel good just being around them.

“They compete hard, yet they like each other and work well with each other. It’s an interesting dynamic.”

About 14 months ago, Iowa had four quarterbacks on its roster. Along with Stanzi and Christensen, who will graduate and transfer to another college for his final year of eligibility, quarterbacks Arvell Nelson and Marvin McNutt were in competition. Nelson left the program after a drug arrest and played free safety at Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College last year. McNutt, who entered last fall as the third quarterback, shifted to wide receiver a couple of games into the fall last year.

The defections of Christensen and Nelson, along with McNutt’s position change have left the backup position open.

“That’s part of the process here in the next 15 days,” Ferentz said, “is to see who does what and see if one will move ahead of the other.”


Enthusiasm still high for Carver project

March 29, 2009

IOWA CITY – Turmoil involving the Iowa men’s basketball program has failed to dampen enthusiasm for a new basketball practice facility and Carver-Hawkeye Arena renovation.

Mark Jennings, Iowa’s associate athletics director for donor and patron services, said the department has received between $8 million and $9 million in pledges for the $47 million project.

“As news comes out of the one of the sports offices, it really doesn’t affect this project because no matter if a player stays or if a player leaves, we’ve got to have the project,” Jennings said. “We’ve got to have the facility. That doesn’t slow us up any. We just keep going forward and stay positive about the project.

“Most of the people we’re seeing have been Hawkeye fans for a long time, and they’re going to be Hawkeye fans for a lot longer – no matter what players are here or gone. Thank God they feel that way.”

Four Iowa men’s basketball players have left the team within the last couple of days. Junior guard Jermain Davis said Wednesday he had obtained his scholarship release to play for Minnesota State-Mankato, a Division II school. Sophomore Jake Kelly likely is headed to an Indiana college, while sophomore Jeff Peterson and junior David Palmer also are leaving.

Both Jennings and Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said the school still plans to break ground on the new facility this fall. That counters recent rumors that Iowa will wait another year before starting on the new facility.

“No, absolutely not,” Jennings said when asked if the project is delayed. “Now, things can change. If by June the economy … who knows what the future is going to bring. But, no, right now we’re right on schedule. The plan is this fall we’re going to breaking ground.

“I wonder who starts rumors when nobody in here does?”

The basketball facility and arena renovation includes a multi-court gym for the school’s basketball and volleyball teams and a renovation to the wrestling complex. Each of those sports will receive new locker rooms, new offices for coaches and an 8,000-square foot strength and conditioning center.

The arena renovation plan includes 650 premium seats for men’s basketball. A courtside seat for men’s basketball is valued at $125,000 in giving over five years. A second-row seat will cost $60,000 over five years. There will be 50 seats in each row.

The arena also includes 550 premium club seats costing $12,500 per seat over five years. Two hospitality rooms also are included in the renovation.
The athletics departments has a goal of raising $20 million privately, and Jennings said that’s likely to happen.

The funding method is a bit different than the one presented to Iowa’s Board of Regents last summer. Barta said a bonding company provided the figures for that meeting, while the athletics department refined tailored the giving plan to donors after receiving approval.

Barta said the department received a pair of substantial gifts for the project on Thursday.

“The reception has been tremendous,” Jennings said. “I think the easy part of it is telling the story; we all know we need the facility. It’s fun to tell them about a little more about why we need the facility.”

The school also has naming opportunities for major donors. The Howard family of Iowa Falls donated $3.5 million toward the renovation and secured naming rights for their pavilion. The school has set naming rights for the basketball court at $5 million.

“I do want to emphasize the name Carver-Hawkeye Arena will not change,” Jennings said. “That will always be there.”

Jennings said in the last two days he’s had six meetings with different people about the project “and all six were nothing but positive.” Jennings and other department officials will have low-key discussions with potential donors during the I-Club’s spring banquet circuit. Lickliter is slated to speak at 11 banquets this spring as a member of the gold team.

“It’s a very important part of (increasing donations),” Jennings said of Lickliter meeting with patrons on I-Club trips.

“We know we’ve got to get this done. And we’re going to get it done.”

Audio from Lickliter’s press conference

March 27, 2009

In four takes:

Lickliter take 1

Lickliter take 2

Lickliter take 3

Lickliter take 4

Barta concerned about players leaving

March 27, 2009

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta showed unwavering support for men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter, moments after the coach acknowledged that four players are leaving his program.
   Lickliter, who is 28-36 in his two seasons at Iowa, has had nine players leave his program since taking over in April 2007. Barta, who hired Lickliter, said he was concerned with the losses but stands behind Lickliter.
   “Absolutely,” Barta said when asked if he still supports Lickliter as coach. “Obviously, the last couple of days as Todd mentioned, in having to make adjustments in our strategy here going forward … I’ve never questioned his approach, his strategy, the foundation he’s building. I continue to fully support him.”
   Sophomores Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson – who combined for 49 starts – and juniors David Palmer and Jermain Davis will transfer following the semester. Kelly and Peterson were the team’s first- and third-leading scorers, respectively. Davis, who started 11 games, will transfer to Division II Minnesota State-Mankato. Palmer graduates in May and plays to play one season of Division II basketball.
   “Everybody who cares about the Hawkeyes the last couple of days have had has angst and concern,” Barta said. “I have, our coach, and everybody who cares the program- our fans have – but clearly this an adjustment, and we’re going to adjust.
   “Sure, it concerns me, like it concerns Todd, like it concerns Hawkeyes fans, but after you talk through the situation, the concern is still there, but also we have a plan. Todd’s leading that plan, and I’m confident he’s on the right track.”

Players stand behind Lickliter

March 27, 2009

Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter confirmed Friday that four players with eligibility have asked for — and received — their release from the basketball program.

Those players are sophomores Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson, and juniors David Palmer and Jermain Davis. Those players combined for 65 starts last year.

At least two of the remaining Iowa players stand behind Lickliter — at least publicly — and support him as the team tries to move past the turmoil.

“We’re behind coach, and I’ve enjoyed learning from him,” Iowa freshman Matt Gatens said. “He’s a great teacher of the game. It’s a been a joy playing for him. I’ve learned a lot of new things and tools, a lot of things I never even knew about the game and the system. It’s been a joy, and I think we all feel that way.”

Gatens was the only player to start every game for Iowa. Freshman Anthony Tucker, who joined Gatens and other players in attending Lickliter’s news conference. Tucker was ruled academically ineligible for the second semester and missed Iowa’s last 14 games.

Tucker supports Lickliter and said he’s excited about next year.

“I’ve heard some people said your best player left, your starting point guard left, but I wish them the best,”  Tucker said. “I don’t feel like we’re going to struggle as much as everyone thinks we are. We’re all excited to play next season.”

“We’ve got guys who want to be here, who want to work hard and are proud to be Hawkeyes. So I don’t know if we’re suffering at all.”

Lickliter to address rumors today; we’ll live blog it

March 27, 2009

Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter will meet with the media to address the transfers of Jake Kelly and Jermain Davis as well as to clear up the potential losses of other players.

My colleague Marc Morehouse will live blog the press conference at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta also will attend the news conference. With the program clearly at a crossroads, what questions would you ask? If you’ve got a few, shoot me an e-mail at or comment on this blog

Kelly announces departure on Facebook; Iowa not yet confirming release

March 26, 2009
Iowa's Jake Kelly, right, high fives the crowd after a Iowa defeated Penn State 75-67, in double overtime in a NCAA college men's basketball game Saturday, March 7, 2009, in Iowa City, Iowa. Kelly led Iowa with 22 points. (AP Photo /Matthew Putney)

Iowa's Jake Kelly, right, high fives the crowd after a Iowa defeated Penn State 75-67, in double overtime in a NCAA college men's basketball game Saturday, March 7, 2009, in Iowa City, Iowa. Kelly led Iowa with 22 points. (AP Photo /Matthew Putney)

IOWA CITY – Sophomore point guard Jake Kelly officially is leaving Iowa, his father, Bob, told The Gazette last night.

Bob Kelly said his son has asked for his release to play college basketball at a school near his family in Terre Haute, Ind. Bob Kelly said Jake prefers to play at Indiana State, a school the family used to buy season tickets to in the past.

“I don’t know if he’s gotten it (his release) yet,” Bob Kelly said. “I don’t know how that works. He’s expecting to get it.”

Kelly announced his intentions to transfer on his Iowa Facebook account at 7:11 p.m., writing, “it really means a lot to me that all the Hawkeye fans are being understanding. I won’t forget how passionate the fans are here and I will always be proud to have worn the Iowa uniform.”

His status update was met mostly with comforting notes from friends and fans.

Kelly, led Iowa in scoring last season with 11.6 points a game. He averaged 20 points a game for Iowa’s last seven regular-season games. Twice he was named Big Ten Player of the Week and was an honorable mention all-Big Ten selection.


Iowa associate sports information director Steve Roe neither confirmed nor denied information about Kelly’s release.

“I’m not aware of that,” Roe said, “and Todd (Lickliter, Iowa’s coach) has not addressed it. I have not been told about it.”

Kelly is the second Iowa men’s basketball player leaving the program in as many days. Wednesday, guard Jermain Davis announced he was transferring to Division II Minnesota State-Mankato. Two other players – sophomore guard Jeff Peterson and junior forward David Palmer – are rumored to consider leaving the program.

Bob Kelly said his son wants to play at Indiana State but has not spoken with anyone connected to the team about a possible roster spot. Bob Kelly added that Jake plans to apply for a hardship through the NCAA to play right away. NCAA rules force transfers between Division I institutions to sit out one season except in special circumstances. There is a precedent of that with players leaving Iowa.

Former Iowa player Tyler Smith transferred from Iowa less than two weeks after Lickliter took over as coach in 2007. Smith left for Tennessee to be closer to his father, who was dying of cancer. The NCAA granted Smith immediate eligibility.

Bob Kelly said Jake has had a difficult time emotionally since his mother died in a plane crash last summer. Bob Kelly said Jake loved Iowa and Iowa City, liked Lickliter and his teammates. But Jake struggled juggling school and basketball as well as his emotions.

“The true reason is he wants to be closer to his family after the tragedy,” Bob Kelly said. “It’s been a very tough year for him. He persevered. He’s a tough kid, but he’s not that tough. He needs his family right now.”

Jake Kelly told reporters March 9 he planned to continue his career at Iowa beyond the upcoming season. Bob Kelly said Jake wasn’t lying at the time and hadn’t made his final decision until last week.

“Well, to be honest, he didn’t make decision until he was home for spring break. It’s been on his mind all year, let that be known. In the past, he’s gone back and forth because the success he had at the end of the year made him think that he needs to stay.”

Bob Kelly said Jake struggled with the losses and took them all personally. But Bob Kelly reiterated that neither the losses nor Coach Lickliter had any part in Jake leaving Iowa.

It’s undetermined if Indiana State will sign Kelly once he leaves Iowa.

“He does want to continue to play college basketball and he does have the idea that he might go to Indiana State. But he doesn’t know if they have a spot for him. When he gets his release, he’s going to contact their coach with the intent to see if a spot is available.

“If not, he may decide to sit out a year and try to get mind together. He definitely wants to make a career out of basketball.”