Ricky Stanzi ready for South Carolina

Two weeks from Thursday, Ricky Stanzi and the Iowa Hawkeyes are set to take on the South Carolina Gamecocks. Read what Ricky had to say about the challenges, playing in a bowl game, and more in this premium Q&A transcript.

Q: Talk about South Carolina.

Ricky Stanzi: I've looked at some of the film on them, everyone knows they have a really good defense, ranked 10th or 11th right now. Watching the film, they're a very aggressive squad. They move fast out there, do a great job of disguising what kind of looks they're giving, especially in the secondary. A lot of things to prepare for. We've got some time to do that, but our main focus is always the same, just work on what we can. Just work on executing, so that when we get out there, we're as prepared as we can be for whatever they throw at us.

Q: Have you seen a defense like them this year?

Stanzi: A lot of defenses are similar, but we never played a team, I don't know, you don't know the speed until you get out there on the field and can see what kind of speed they have. We've faced challenges this year with teams that had speed. Penn State had a really good defense, and we prepared hard for them, too. It really comes down to doing what we can to get ready for the game. When it comes time, just playing our game, and executing.

Q: It doesn't hurt to have that free safety out there.

Stanzi: That's never good, we'd like to play their best 11. If they're one man down it doesn't make a difference to us, we prepare the same way.

Q: You were just talking about how you want to play their best 11, their pass defense is #3 nationally, are you excited to go up against a defense like that?

Stanzi: Absolutely. It's a challenge. That's something you always want to have when you're playing a great team. We knew their defense would be really good. We knew their defense would be really good. They have a pass defense, and that'll be a great challenge for us. Fortunately, we have a great running back that can help take a lot of pressure off of the passing game. We'll have to see what happens.

Q: What makes them such a good pass defense?

Stanzi: Like I said earlier, their ability to disguise their coverages confuses a lot of QBs, makes it tough to see the coverage and get the ball o receivers, then their ability to close on the ball definitely helps with their pass defense.

Q: Do they bring it?

Stanzi: They'll bring a lot of pressure. They like to bring it at certain times and certain situations, just like other teams. That's some of the tendencies that we'll have to pick up on.

Q: During this year, what is the most improvement you've made in your game?

Stanzi: My game? I don't know. Maybe just make sure Shonn gets the ball more? I don't know. No, in all seriousness, it's just learning your role in the offense and what that is. For me, it's always been just command of the game, work the game. Whatever plays they throw at you, make sure that we, as a group, execute those to the best of our ability. Don't try to do too much, that's gotten me in trouble before. Just learning to play within the system, get the ball to the playmakers. It's giving our guys the best chance to win.

Q: How have you been able to handle the blitz better?

Stanzi: That's something that comes with experience and watching film. Like I said, picking up on what a team's tendency is. It changes each week. If you're able to watch more film, we go over the blitzes, that's something that over time, you see them quicker, make better decisions.

Q: When you think about where you came to get to the point you're at, when a year ago you were sitting second on the depth chart?

Stanzi: It's a nice opportunity. I'm honored to be in this position right now, to be able to start for this team. I'm not really looking in the past to look where I was a year ago. I'm just focused on what we have, the challenge we have ahead of us right now and what we need to do to win this game.

Q: How badly does this team want to win a bowl? Has anyone on this team won a bowl game? The 5th year seniors may have dressed for the cap one, but didn't play.

Stanzi: Of course. We want to win the game, it's very important to us. We have to prepare the best we can these next couple weeks to make sure we get that done.

Q: When you guys went to the Alamo bowl, were you the scout team QB?

Stanzi: Yeah. I was a freshman, so I was with the scouts. It was a good experience to go up there. It was a great place to have a bowl game, there's a lot of great activities. It was a good learning experience for the players that are on the team now.

Q: Were you Colt McCoy for that game?

Stanzi: Was I Colt McCoy, what do you mean?

Q: In preparation, on the scout team.

Stanzi: Oh. Yeah, I guess I was, now that I think about it. Kind of cool. I don't know. I was definitely not "Colt McCoy" at the time, nor am I now, but we tried to do the best we could to get our guys prepared, but it's not easy to do when McCoy is the QB you're facing that week.

Q: Talk about the importance of winning this game, a lot of people don't think the Big Ten is going to have much success. A lot of people saying the Big Ten is going to go 0-7.

Stanzi: You hear those things a lot when you're watching the bowl previews and all that stuff, how the Big Ten can't compete with the speed of the game. Say what you want, it's just another challenge, another thing you can throw in there. We're not too concerned about what people think is going to happen, good or bad. We're more concerned about what we need to do, how we need to play in order to get a victory. Whether they say it's the speed of the game or whatever it is that's hampering the Big Ten from winning, the only thing we can do is go play the game and go out there and win, prove that it doesn't matter about the speed or any of that. It just matters when you line up, who came to play, who's going to finish the job.

Q: A lot of times, bowl games, players are either asked or give their opinion about how much practice time, how much free time, do you and your other players have any input into that?

Stanzi: No. How much we practice? Free time? No, that's not up to us, nor should it be. We're players, we're supposed to play, the coaches are supposed to coach, and that's how it is. Whatever they choose, that's what we're going to do. They know that we have full confidence in them like they do in us. They're going to get us prepared. Whatever they think is necessary to do that, that's what we're going to do because we want to win the game. We have our full trust in that.

Q: When the bowl game's over and come back together in January, do you feel like you're still going to be in competition?

Stanzi: You're always in competition. That's the great thing about sports, that's what makes everything better, what drives everyone. You know that you can never relax. If you do, that's when you stay the same. You either get better or you get worse. That's how it goes, especially in football. If you're not trying to compete every day, then something's wrong. Being in competition's definitely important, it's always here, especially at this program.

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