To redshirt or not to redshirt: that is the question Kirk Ferentz must answer for quarterback Nathan Stanley.
The Hawkeyes' depth chart for Week 1, released on Friday, had a few surprises. New Kirk doesn’t just throw Paki on there as a placeholder and keep the true freshmen as surprises anymore. Eight brand new names found a place on the 2-deeps. And perhaps the most notable is Nathan Stanley getting slashed with Tyler Wiegers at quarterback #2.
So as we are just days away from the start of the 2016 season, our attention already turns to 2017. There is no competition for the starting job this year, but it has all the makings for a good ol’ QB controversy next year. Stanley has come in and in just two months already passed Drew Cook and apparently moved into a tie with Wiegers. That’s pretty impressive for a position where knowing the system is so important. He must have plenty of raw skill to be able to move up the depth chart so quickly.
While the QB competition will no doubt be exciting to follow next year, its impact right now comes in a redshirt decision for Stanley. If he is going to be the starter next year, then do you play him now?
Kirk Ferentz has generally followed a simple rule with true freshmen: you get a redshirt unless you are expected to start (or play a significant role) next year…or in a few rare cases, if you are good enough to start this year. We’ve seen it time and time again…a guy doesn’t look quite ready to play but will get thrown in there on special teams or in backup duty only to get a few plays per game. And we question “why would you burn a redshirt for that?” only to see that experience pay off in dividends the next year.
Matt Vandeberg is a great recent example. He played as a true freshmen four years ago. It seemed like a strange move at the time to take off his redshirt. Many people thought it was a move just to stagger the eligibility of all the WRs in that class. He only caught 8 passes that first year, but then doubled his production as a sophomore, and then quadrupled it as a junior, leading the team in receptions last year.
If C.J. Beathard can’t play for whatever reason, (injury, poison poured down his ear, etc…), then it definitely becomes a “next man in” scenario, and if Stanley is better than Wiegers at this point, then there is no question he should play. But if Beathard stays healthy, then there likely won’t be a whole lot of snaps for the backup QB. (This week’s game against Miami of Ohio looks like the only one that you’d bet on plenty of time for the second team, but this certainly isn’t going to be a 2012 Jame Vandenberg situation). Is it really worth burning a Stanley’s redshirt for a handful of snaps were he just turns around and hands off to whoever is the 4th string running back?
This isn’t completely uncharted territory for Ferentz. Drew Tate similarly climbed his way up the depth chart as a true freshman in 2003. He played in six games and threw 11 passes for all of 55 yards. At the time, it was another one of those “why burn the RS” situations…Jason Manson probably would have been fine taking those couple of snaps. But, much like the other positions, that experience seemed to pay off when Tate took the reins in 2004 and led Iowa to another Top 10 finish, a Big Ten co-championship, and an amazing Capital One Bowl victory.
We’ve only had the chance to see Stanley once now, at the Kid's Day open practice, but if/when Iowa has a multi-touchdown lead in the second half on Saturday, it’ll be very interesting to watch if we see him again or if it is Wiegers that trots out on the field with the second string.