IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Iowa has finally settled on a quarterback -- and it's not the one most thought it would be in August.
Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed on Tuesday that sophomore Ricky Stanzi has emerged as Iowa's starter. Stanzi, who won the job over last season's incumbent junior Jake Christensen, will get the nod on Saturday when the Hawkeyes (2-0) host rival Iowa State (2-0).
Stanzi started in last week's 41-0 win over FIU, but Christensen shared playing time. Though Christensen put up decent numbers, Stanzi emerged as the clear leader after throwing for 162 yards and three touchdowns in less than a half of work.
"It's nice, it's exciting. It's a great opportunity, and I'm ready to go to work this week," Stanzi said.
Stanzi's ascent is somewhat remarkable, given that Christensen had been thought of as Iowa's quarterback of the future since setting foot on campus.
After redshirting in 2006, Stanzi sat third on the depth chart and wasn't even in the picture to contend for the starting job last season. Christensen was one of the nation's most highly touted players coming out of high school, and after spending his freshman year as Drew Tate's backup, he seemed like a lock to be a three-year starter.
Even since-departed Arvell Nelson was further along in his development than Stanzi last season and they came in with the same recruiting class.
But Christensen never could get the Iowa offense going in 2007. Playing behind an inexperienced and often inept offensive line, Christensen completed just 53.5 percent of his passes as Iowa went 6-6 and missed out on a bowl bid.
Iowa promised to give Nelson and Stanzi a crack at the top spot in spring ball, but Nelson was arrested for possession of marijuana and kicked off the team in March. That left Christensen and Stanzi to battle it out in spring ball. By August, Stanzi had progressed to the point where Iowa listed him and Christensen as co-first team quarterbacks.
As most expected, Christensen earned the nod because of his experience and a shoulder injury that limited Stanzi in August drills. But Stanzi matched Christensen in the opener, then was nearly perfect against FIU.
"It's been a long road, I guess," said Stanzi. "With each year, you just get a little more experience. With each spring ball, and each camp you learn a little bit more, get more reps and get more opportunities to watch film. And I think watching film has been the biggest thing that's helped me, because when you do those things you definitely see a lot more on the field, things start to slow down and it makes the game a lot easier to play."
Christensen was unavailable to the media on Tuesday, and Ferentz said the quarterback had yet to take him up on his offer to discuss the move.
Ferentz wouldn't rule out the possibility that Christensen would see playing time against the Cyclones, but the quarterback platoon has apparently ended.
"I want to make sure he's doing OK, because it's not like just any other position," Ferentz said. "It's everybody's business, how the quarterback does or who the quarterback is."
As is his custom, Ferentz was cautious in his assessment of Stanzi.
"He hasn't been sacked 40-something times yet," Ferentz said in reference to the 46 times Christensen was sacked in 2007. "I'm sure Rick will do well, but there are a lot of unknowns yet. It's not we're ready to crown him king or anything like that. It's like our football team. I mean, we've played hard but we really haven't done anything yet either."