Iowa's quarterback derby is settled: Hello, Nathan Stanley

Chad Leistikow
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. – The 2017 Iowa quarterback derby has a winner.

Iowa's big-armed sophomore Nathan Stanley will take the first snap from center when the Hawkeyes open the season Saturday against Wyoming (11 a.m. CT, Big Ten Network).

Hawkeye quarterbacks Nathan Stanley (4) and Tyler Wiegers (8) are shown during Iowa's Aug. 5 media day.

The sophomore from Menomonie, Wis., won the job in a camp battle over redshirt junior Tyler Wiegers, the university confirmed with a depth-chart release Monday afternoon. The news that Stanley "will be Iowa's starting QB Saturday" was first reported a few hours earlier by Gary Dolphin, the radio voice of the Hawkeyes.

It’s the second time in less than a year that Stanley has wound up ahead of the more experienced Wiegers on Iowa’s QB ranks. Stanley was one of the biggest stories of fall camp last August, when he hopped Wiegers and Drew Cook to take the No. 2 role behind C.J. Beathard (a third-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers) as a true freshman.

The decision appeared to be headed this way after Iowa’s “Kids Day at Kinnick” open practice on Aug. 12, when Stanley clearly outperformed Wiegers with several-thousand fans in the stands.

Stanley was relatively sharp on that Saturday, unofficially connecting on 13 of 23 passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. Wiegers looked more uncomfortable in the pocket and labored to an unofficial 6-for-14, 31-yard performance.

But even last week after the 20th practice of fall camp, coaches said they still hadn't seen separation at football's most important position.

"We're really not being coy," Kirk Ferentz told Wednesday on our weekly radio show. "It's been back and forth with both guys, and they've done a really good job. Both Tyler and Nate are first-class guys. They're the kind of guys you want leading your football team in all regards."

Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and quarterbacks coach Ken O'Keefe have acknowledged that Stanley (6-foot-5, 235 pounds) has the more powerful arm but lacks experience, while Wiegers (6-4, 225) is better at procedural aspects of the position entering his fourth year in the program. Stanley was on the No. 1 line at quarterback at Big Ten Media Days, but hadn't been declared the Week 1 starter until Monday.

The biggest question of camp now appears to have an answer.

So on Saturday, Stanley will make his first career start after completing 5 of 9 passes for 62 yards in limited action as a freshman.

Still, Brian Ferentz noted that he wouldn’t be surprised if both Stanley and Wiegers wound up being needed in 2017.

“We play a 12-game schedule. I know all 12 of them are going to be competitive,” he said at the team's media day. “I know they’re going to be physical. I know they’re going to be hard to win. And there’s going to be 11 guys on the other side of the field trying to whack our quarterback. There’s a great chance we may need both of them before it’s all said and done.”