IOWA CITY, Iowa — To build himself up over the summer, Nathan Stanley started at the bottom.
His focus was his feet. Reviewing spring practice film revealed that his strides were off.
Stanley spent the last few months focusing on his movement in the pocket to improve his accuracy, comfort and get a kick back in his step.
“The biggest thing was definitely my footwork could have been a lot better in the spring game,” Stanley told Land of 10 at Iowa’s recent media day. “I think going from practice into a game situation like that it’s expected, but I can definitely build on it a lot.”
Stanley’s spring game didn’t sit well in most corners of Hawkeye Nation. That included Stanley’s locker stall.
He went 6 of 17 for 13 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. It was far from ideal, and the same could be said for his entire spring. The sophomore entered as the overwhelming favorite to claim the starting job. He left in a dead heat with junior Tyler Wiegers.
For Stanley, it was more about his play than where he sat in the pecking order. Reviewing his film was part of his spring breakdown. He needed to see what he could learn.
It turned out his footwork stood out like Kenny Mayne on Dancing With The Stars.
That’s not a good thing.
Stanley realized it and needed to fix it. His 35.2 percent spring game completion percentage was a direct result of his footwork, he said. The better his footwork, the better his hips work. The better his hips, the more likely his torso is aligned properly and he can hit his receivers in the numbers.
When the footwork goes, the rest falls apart like a building with a faulty foundation. Passing drills with teammates helped, but most of his work came on his own.
“A lot of just drops on air and getting my feet where they needed to be, my hips and shoulders to my target a lot,” Stanley said. “Just taking as many drops as I could.”
The early returns are positive. He looked like a starter during an open practice on Aug. 12. Stanley was unofficially 13 of 23 passing for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns. He connected with wide receiver Devonte Young for the two biggest pass plays of the scrimmage — touchdowns covering 53 yards and 21 yards.
“I feel a lot more comfortable in the pocket with the offensive linemen,” Stanley said. “They have done a great job of creating a pocket in camp.
“I can definitely feel when my feet are off, but [quarterbacks] coach [Ken] O’Keefe has done a great job pointing out what I need to do and help me.”
Stanley is moving in the right direction, but has yet to claim the starting spot. His final hurdle to earning QB No. 1 status may be embracing a leadership role.
“Ultimately it gets down to leading the team,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said in early August. “That’s what it gets down to.”
It’s understandable if looking up at his teammates seems a little strange because Stanley has been spending a lot of time looking down at his feet.