Rare is the time when there isn't at least some debate as to the merits of Iowa's quarterback roster, and whom should or should not be playing; everyone has an opinion and is typically unafraid to share it.
During the Drew Tate era, the discussions as to ‘who should be playing' were kept to a minimum when compared to the past 15 to 20 years of Iowa football. Nathan Chandler's lone year as a starter didn't see many calls from Row 10 from fans yelling ‘Put in Tate!' Brad Banks' senior year as a starter was another ‘year of tranquility' on the quarterback debate front.
But prior to the 2002 season, calm waters were not the norm.
2001 saw the ‘McCann-Banks' debate heat up during the year, with a little bit of Jon Beutjer mixed in during August camp. Scott Mullen wasn't necessarily on solid footing in 2000, starting the first four games before giving way to Beutjer, who had a stellar performance against Indiana before being injured, and Kyle McCann started most of the games in the final third of the season. Randy Reiners and McCann were in the mix in 1999.
Matt Sherman saw most of the action between 1995-1997, before suffering an injury after the Michigan game and giving way to Reiners. You then have to go back to 1990 & 1991 and Matt Rogers to find a sea of calm.
How will things play out this year in Iowa City? That's definitely a matter of opinion, and as I said before, which is usually the case as it relates to Iowa's signal caller, there are several of them.
Jake Christensen started all 12 games in 2007 and has 13 career starts to his credit. Iowa is 7-6 in those games. Christensen completed 53.5% of his 370 attempts last year, throwing for 2,269 yards, 17 touchdowns to just six interceptions. He has 19 touchdown passes to eight INT's on his career and a total of 2,554 yards.
Last year's numbers were not where Christensen hopes to be this year, as there were issues with accuracy and touch in certain situations.
Jake certainly proved that he is tough enough to play the position last year, as he was sacked more times than any other quarterback in the Bowl Championship Subdivision level. This year's sack total needs to be cut by at least half, from the mid 40's from last year to no more than the low 20's this year, if the offense is going to be effective.
Some fans believe that Christensen will be on a short leash early this season. Some fans were excited to see the improvements made by Rick Stanzi from last spring to this spring when they got a chance to see him take 20 to 30 snaps in the open scrimmage back in April. Stanzi showed more of a pocket presence and better overall comfort level and skill set on that rainy Saturday, yet he has seen only a handful of plays in his career.
For some, the allure of the unknown is just as if not more appealing than what they have seen from Christensen. For others, while Christensen's final numbers combined with the overall offensive output from 2007 were not where they need to be, they are comfortable with Jake under center in 2008 and hopeful to see sophomore to junior year improvement.
At this point in time, at least in my opinion, these are the only two real options has at their disposal. Marvin McNutt was in the mix this spring, but based on the very limited exposure that the fans or media had to spring practice, he did not appear to be ready for fall Saturday's against Big Ten competition.
If there is a battle this fall, it will be between Christensen and Stanzi.
Here is what Kirk Ferentz had to say on April 19th, minutes after Iowa's final spring practice concluded:
Ferentz: "I think what you saw today, Marvin has the furthest amount of ground to cover. He is trying to learn what he is doing. Rick and Jake have competed and we will let that process continue and we will see what jumps Marvin can make by August. We will let them all compete and go from there."
Did Rick Stanzi take some steps this spring?
Ferentz: "I think he has helped his cause. If you talk about any of the guys, consistency is the big thing. The guys around them have been in and out and that affects things. We will try to be fair about it and we will keep it open and let the guys compete."
Q: So is Jake not the #1? :
Ferentz: : "Jake is #1. Again, outside of King and Kroul right now, I am not sure anyone is in ink at the 1. We need to get better."
So Christensen enters camp as the number one, and I am of the opinion that he will be the starting quarterback for the Maine football game, and every game after that, barring injury.
If Iowa is healthy at wide receiver and the offensive line makes the improvements they have to make, and are expected to make, Jake absolutely needs to make his improvements, as well. I am of the opinion that all of these factors are tied together, and we will see that on the field this year.
Therefore my statistical projections for 2008 from the quarterback position will be based on that opinion.
ATT COMP % YDS TD INT
Jake Christensen 350 210 60.0 2,774 21 9
Rick Stanzi 12 6 50.0 34 0 0
NOTES: Christensen's threw 370 passes last year and completed 53.5%. There were more than 35 passes in 2007 that would be considered ‘dropped balls' (there were at least 10 in the first two games alone). But there were also a handful of catches made by receivers that were on passes that were very difficult to catch. Jake had 198 completions in 2007, so I added 22 addition completions onto last year's numbers, which would have given him close to a 60.0% completion mark. For example, 22 completions of say 37 passes that were dropped is a 59% completion number. So in this adjusted look at last year, 220 completions out of 370 attempts is a completion percentage of 59.5 percent.
Will Iowa have zero drops this year? No, which is why I did not add all of those 35-plus dropped balls into the completion column in adjusting for this year's statistics.
Also, from last week's WR/TE yardage projections, I had Christensen throwing for 2,599 yards to those targets. I added in 175 receiving yards to running backs for this year's totals, to arrive at my overall yardage total, and gave the running backs one touchdown reception.
Obviously, these estimates are not scientific, but I still believe that I am not erring to the impossible or outrageous side of numbers. These numbers are also based on a 13 game season, which would include a bowl game, as I have predicted Iowa to finish the regular season 8-4 in 2008.
I have also reduced Christensen's attempts by 20 for the entire season from last year's total number, as I think the offense will be more balanced and productive this year, due to improved play from the offensive line and hopefully a balancing out year of attrition at WR & TE.