Word out of Iowa City is that sophomore backup quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who in the spring appeared to be pushing incumbent starter Jake Christensen for the job, is out with a shoulder injury. Apparently, Stanzi was hurt during drills Friday morning. Rumors on the Rivals message boards say he is out six to eight weeks. I couldn’t confirm that, but I did confirm that he left the football complex with his arm in a sling.
This is bad news for the Hawkeyes.
Stanzi probably wasn’t going to be the starter when Maine comes to town six weeks from Saturday, but he did figure to challenge Christensen during camp. If Stanzi is in fact out six to eight weeks, Christensen will be pushed only by redshirt freshman Marvin McNutt and incoming freshmen John Wienke and James Vandenberg. That’s not enough. After a sub-par sophomore season during which Christensen took every meaningful Iowa snap, he needs all the competition he can get as he prepares for 2008.
I have no doubt Christensen will be the starter against Maine — I had little doubt before learning of Stanzi’s injury. But competition in camp would have helped him be a better quarterback to start the season. And it would have been good for the Hawkeyes to build some depth at the position — some much-needed depth. If Stanzi were to play, say, the fourth quarter of each of Iowa’s first two games, against Maine and Florida International, both of which figure to be lopsided wins, that would have, at the least, given Stanzi some valuable game experience, and, if he played well, given the coaching staff confidence to go to him if Christensen struggles as he did in 2007. They had no confidence in either Stanzi or Arvell Nelson last year and had no choice but to stick with Jake through thick and thin.
Now, let’s say Stanzi is out six to eight weeks — again, I can’t confirm that. Best-case scenario, he misses all of training camp and returns as a distant backup before the opener, and probably doesn’t see much time. Worst-case scenario, he returns before the Sept. 13 matchup with Iowa State, probably as the third-string quarterback behind McNutt, Wienke or Vandenberg, whichever one plays mop-up dutie against Maine and Florida International. This, right here, could be the defining juncture of Stanzi’s career at Iowa. Right when he’s in position to compete for playing time, even the starting job, he could be pushed to the back of the line.
Again, all we know right now is that Stanzi hurt his shoulder and he left Friday with his arm in a sling. That’s it, but that certainly isn’t a good sign for Stanzi or the Hawkeyes as they sit just a few short weeks from opening camp.