Buckeye Front Ready For New Iowa QB

The Iowa offense that will take the field against Ohio State this weekend will feature a key new face under center in redshirt freshman James Vandenberg. As Iowa's most prolific prep passer makes his first career start, the Buckeye defensive front is hoping to make it one he would like to forget.

When James Vandenberg lines up under center for Iowa tomorrow afternoon against Ohio State, he brings an impressive resume to the table. Formerly a three-star prospect, the native of Keokuk, Iowa, finished his high school career as the most prolific passer in state history.

The athletic Vandenberg compiled 11 varsity letters during his prep career, ranks sixth all-time nationally in single-season completion percentage (70 percent) and led his team to a state title as a senior.

That is not what the Buckeye defensive line is going to see when the 6-3, 205-pound redshirt freshman steps onto the field Saturday. As Vandenberg makes his first career start, OSU junior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward has a different thought in mind.

He sees fresh meat.

"You're definitely salivating to get to the quarterback," Heyward said.

Vandenberg has drawn the unenviable task of facing an OSU defensive attack that has emerged as one of the nation's elite during the course of the 2009 season. The Buckeyes lead the conference in scoring defense and total defense and are tied for the lead in sacks.

Nationally, OSU ranks third in rushing defense, fourth in scoring defense, sixth in total defense and 11th in passing defense.

It's a tall order for any quarterback to face, as Penn State senior Daryll Clark found out week ago. Clark entered his team's game against OSU as the conference leader in passing efficiency and was sixth in the nation in touchdown passes but was held to a season-low 125 passing yards and no touchdowns in s 24-7 Buckeye victory.

Afterward, Clark said he felt like the Buckeyes knew what the Nittany Lions were going to try to do before they did it. That does not bode well for Vandenberg, who replaces injured junior Ricky Stanzi.

"Getting more work is going to help me," Vandenberg said. "It's going to make me more comfortable overall. I'll be familiar with all the looks."

If there is a silver lining in the situation for the Hawkeyes, it is that the Buckeyes have little film of Vandenberg. He has seen action in two games this season, completing 11 of 30 passes for 120 yards with one interception and no touchdowns.

OSU safeties coach Paul Haynes said he does not feel that Iowa will change much as a result of the quarterback change.

"I think when you look at Iowa, they're going to do what they do," he said. "He got in there last week and they didn't change very much. They ran their offense."

However, the Hawkeyes could change things up if they move wide receiver Marvin McNutt back to his high school position of quarterback. A three-star prospect from St. Louis Hazelwood Central, McNutt earned first-team all-state honors as a senior when he threw for 1,605 yards and 15 touchdowns and also ran for 248 yards and six scores while claiming the starting spot midway through the year.

He was ranked the No. 33 quarterback prospect in the country by Scout and also held scholarship offers from Wisconsin, Minnesota and Kansas, among others. McNutt has thrown one incomplete pass this season and has caught 23 passes for 547 yards and a team-high five touchdowns.

Although the Buckeyes have prepared for the possibility of seeing McNutt, Haynes said the primary focus is on Vandenberg.

"He can throw the out route, he can throw the curl, he can throw it to the flat," the assistant coach said. "That's what Iowa does. Within their offense and what they like to do, he can do those things. He's an athletic kid that can get on the edge. With their style of offense, he fits right in."

The plan for the Buckeyes is the same as it has been all season: to try and get pressure on the quarterback as early in the game as possible.

"Coming into any game, you want to disrupt the QB," senior safety Kurt Coleman said. "It doesn't matter. When we were going to play Penn State, we wanted to disrupt Daryll Clark. We still want to do the same thing. We have to get pressure with out front four without blitzing much. I think that's our goal.

"If we can disrupt the QB and try to make him make the plays, he's going to play into our hands."

OSU senior defensive lineman Lawrence Wilson said his teammates will approach the game as if Stanzi is lining up under center.

"We're looking at (Vandenberg) like he's been the starter the whole year," he said. "There's nothing different. He's a good player just like Stanzi is a good player."


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