Iowa QB Nate Stanley has flexibility, confidence to make audible calls

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley is just as coy at revealing audible calls to reporters as he is delivering them at the line of scrimmage.

Nearly every quarterback and every offense change plays at the line of scrimmage. The same number incorporate dummy calls designed to fool defenders.

Stanley was asked about the percentage of dummy calls he uses when barking out signals. With a smile he replied, “I don’t really think I’m going to say anything about that. It just depends on the weekly game plan.”

Fair enough. One quote could give away an advantage, which could change the complexion of a play, a series, a game — heck even a season. Reporters received the same response from tight end T.J. Hockenson, who said, “You’re going to have to ask [coach Kirk] Ferentz about that.”

But the Hawkeyes do have audibles at line of scrimmages. They also have dummy calls. They incorporate them based on what Stanley sees in his pre-snap read. The audibles vary with each game, and game location plays into it. Ferentz said Stanley had fewer audibles at his disposal last week because of crowd noise at Michigan State than perhaps he will this week against Illinois at Kinnick Stadium.

But as the sophomore quarterback’s comfort grows over time, his responsibilities will expand along with it.

“You can’t play with handcuffs on totally, but we’re probably not asking him to do as much as we will later in the season or certainly next year moving down the road, that type of thing,” Ferentz said. 

“The coaches have really helped me prepare with those,” Stanley said. “We’ve simplified some things from last year with C.J. [Beathard] obviously being in the system with coach [Greg] Davis for five years. Some things are a little more simplified to help me out a little bit.”

Beathard, now the backup quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, had complete control of the line of scrimmage in his pre-snap read. Of course many of the plays didn’t work, but Beathard had a full complement of available audibles in 2016. He was secure in his ability to call them.

That wasn’t always the case, however. As a sophomore in 2014, Beathard filled in for an injured Jake Rudock at Pittsburgh. When the Hawkeyes reached fourth-and-1 at the Pittsburgh 5, the coaching staff sent in its heavy package of three tight ends and a fullback to block for running back Mark Weisman. With 8 minutes, 19 seconds left in the game, Beathard called a timeout.

Afterward, Beathard handed off to Weisman, who reached the 1-yard line for a first down. The same personnel grouping remained in the game for the next play, a first-and-goal. Beathard inexplicably called timeout again. Iowa ultimately scored two plays later and won the game 24-20, but those timeouts were potentially important late in the fourth quarter.

“My flashback moment to C.J. was burning two timeouts on the goal line to Pittsburgh,” Ferentz said. “Those things happen with young quarterbacks. It was in a goal-line formation, there’s only so many things that can happen on the goal line, and we still burned two timeouts. But I think it’s just kind of emblematic, if you will, or symbolic of what happens with young quarterbacks sometimes.

“I think Nate has done a pretty good job overall with that stuff. Handling things, feeling things, that should improve with each week, too.”

The more familiar Stanley gets with the offense, the more flexibility he’ll have with changing plays before the snap. That’s what happened with Beathard in 2015 and 2016 and other quarterbacks in the past, including Ricky Stanzi, James Vandenberg and Rudock.

For today, Stanley’s focus is on staying confident with his current pool of alternative plays.

“Obviously there’s certain things that are the same,” Stanley said. “You’ve got to look at alignments and positions of defensive players, but after that, it switches from week to week.”

The post Iowa QB Nate Stanley has flexibility, confidence to make audible calls appeared first on Land of 10.

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