Iowa's Davis sees Vandenberg progressing

October, 3, 2012
10/03/12
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James Vandenberg's numbers through the first five games don't exactly scream progress.

The Iowa senior quarterback didn't throw a touchdown pass in the first three weeks and has just two scoring strikes to date. He has as many interceptions as touchdowns and has completed just 58.5 percent of his passes, a hair below his season mark from 2011 (58.7). He ranks 75th nationally in passing average (200 ypg) and doesn't appear among the nation's top 100 in quarterback rating (113). Iowa ranks 95th nationally in pass offense.

[+] EnlargeJames Vandenberg
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe stats don't reflect the ways in which James Vandenberg is growing as a quarterback, coordinator Greg Davis says.
While Vandenberg isn't the main reason Iowa stumbled out of the gate to a 2-2 start before a nice performance last week against Minnesota, he hasn't had the start many expected from a senior pegged to be the Big Ten's top drop-back passer before the season. Vandenberg had 3,022 pass yards with 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a junior in 2011.

First-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis sees these numbers. But he also sees others -- as well as non-numerical signs -- that Vandenberg is turning a corner in his development.

"I know statistically, his numbers are down," Davis told ESPN.com, "but part of not being sacked in five weeks is his willingness to throw the ball away. And also, he's done an unbelievable job in the run game. I think there were six times last week down in the red zone where we had a pass called, and he checked us to a run because it was the best play. He saw the run advantage, and he took it.

"'It shows great maturity on his part."

Making the right checks might not propel Vandenberg to All-Big Ten honors, and while Iowa's sacks allowed total (just six in five games) isn't solely attributed to its quarterback, the senior is doing things to help the Hawkeyes win. The touchdown passes haven't come in bunches, although Davis attributes that to "a little bit of bad luck."

"He's had four different occasions where receivers, after catching the pass, have been knocked down at the 1-yard line," Davis said. "And he's doing such a good job of not letting that drive him. Obviously, he's aware of it, we're aware of it, and it will certainly turn over the last half of the year. But it's not something where we're trying to force the issue."

Davis said all of Iowa's offensive players, including Vandenberg, are still getting used to running his system during games. From the new terminology to making sight adjustments to understanding what a call means when it comes down from the booth, it's still a process, but one Davis thinks is improving.

"Everybody is continuing to grow, and James is certainly one of them," Davis said. "James, he's very much aware of what he's doing to help the football team."

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