IOWA CITY, Iowa — Nate Stanley is a physical therapy major, but he may want to focus on teaching.
The biggest growth Iowa quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe sees in his second-year starter is in Stanley’s ability to explain Iowa’s offense and concepts to the other signal callers.
For O’Keefe, it’s the best sign possible as Stanley transitions from part to the offense to centerpiece of it.
That signifies a potential breakthrough.
“He has done a really good job of doing the things necessary to learn the system,” O’Keefe said. “Studying the playbook. Studying the video. He can draw it all up. Now, he’s teaching it to all the other guys in the room. If you are able to do those four steps, in that order, he has a great chance of mastering what we want him to.”
Knowledge is power
O’Keefe believes in the idea that the ability to teach something is a sign of truly understanding it.
He’s trying to ensure Stanley gets to that point. If Stanley can explain a play — and what everyone’s role is — it should help him read plays faster, eliminate mental mistakes and find open receivers quicker than he did last season.
“That is what we are looking for,” O’Keefe said. “That is the measuring stick to continue to improve.”
O’Keefe and Stanley are on the same page. The first thing the quarterback mentions when discussing his improvement is how fast he processes information.
“There is always room to improve in the mental aspect of the game,” Stanley told Land of 10 in March. “I have to continue to make quicker decisions and get rid of the ball.”
Explaining the offense in the quarterback room is just part of the process. Stanley’s comfort with the offense shows up in team settings.
He’s more vocal than last year and taking the time to point out mistakes teammates are making during scrimmages or 7-on-7 drills. It’s part of the reason teammates voted him a captain this spring.
“He has definitely improved with that and it’s become a special thing where he’s doing a great job with communicating with everybody,” tight end Noah Fant said.
‘Sharper this year’
Stanley is an introvert and was content to let others lead while he adjusted to Big Ten football last season.
Stanley played better than most expected, throwing for 2,437 yards and 26 touchdowns. But there is plenty of room for growth. His 55.8 completion percentage is too low and his accuracy on intermediate and deep passes can be sharper.
“Hopefully he’ll be sharper this year,” coach Kirk Ferentz told Land of 10 in March. “He should be. He’s a year older and seen a lot of things now in 13 games. So you count on him making that next step.”
Iowa catered the offense towards Stanley’s strengths last season. He attempted a lot of short, safe passes with downfield options to utilize his arm strength.
It worked, helping Stanley through the growing pains as a first-year starter. The credit goes to offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz.
“That is really what this thing is all about,” O’Keefe said. “You get the right guys on the bus. Now let’s get them in the right seats and Brian has done a great job of getting them in the right seats. He is driving the bus really well. He’s dropped them off at the right spots and the right time, too.”
If Stanley can explain to his teammates how they arrived there, the Hawkeyes won’t be afraid to give him the keys come September.