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Harty: If Derby’s unavailable Saturday, what happens to UI’s depth chart?

[ 12 ] October 2, 2011 |

If what’s being alleged against A.J. Derby is true, the Iowa football team likely will be without its backup quarterback for Saturday’s Big Ten opener at Penn State.

The 20-year-old Derby was charged with fourth-degree criminal mischief and public intoxication stemming from an incident late Saturday night that allegedly occurred outside a bar on the far eastern edge of Iowa City.

This type of behavior usually draws at least a one-game suspension from Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who as of mid-Sunday afternoon hadn’t addressed Derby’s situation publicly.

Ferentz’s punishment is pretty consistent with cases involving alcohol and minor criminal behavior, which in this case was Derby allegedly breaking a window.

So if Derby isn’t available for Saturday’s game, it seems likely that junior John Wienke would climb from third to second on the depth chart at quarterback and that true freshman Jake Rudock would fill the No. 3 spot.

Derby edged out Wienke for the No. 2 spot behind starter James Vandenberg heading into the season, but neither backup has much game experience.

Rudock, on the other hand, has yet to appear in a game this season. Ferentz probably wants to keep it that way to give Rudock four seasons of eligibility beginning next fall.

The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Derby is more than just Iowa’s No. 2 quarterback as a redshirt freshman; he also provides a buffer for Rudock to redshirt this season.

Who the backup is won’t matter as long Vandenberg stays healthy, which he’s managed to do while starting six games as a Hawkeye.

But what if Vandenberg’s luck runs out Saturday, he goes down with an injury and Derby isn’t there to replace him in the Big Ten opener?

Wienke likely would get the first shot if the depth chart means anything and if experience means anything with this being his fourth year in the program.

But you wonder how long his leash would be if Wienke struggled against Penn State.

And would Ferentz blow Rudock’s redshirt season at this stage knowing that Derby likely would be back in a week or two?

The only other quarterback on the roster is 6-3 freshman walk-on Kyle Anderson from Ames. The fact that Anderson was allowed to walk-on the team means that he was an accomplished player in high school.

But it doesn’t mean that he’s anywhere near ready to compete at the Big Ten level as a freshman and he may never be ready to do that.

Everybody loves the bye-week until something goes wrong. Then you blame it on the bye-week for creating too much free time for the players to misbehave.

Derby’s incident allegedly happened about 11:30 p.m. Saturday. So the former City High star and the son of former Iowa linebacker John Derby could’ve been in the same place at the same time doing the same thing even if Iowa had played earlier in the day.

What Derby is alleged to have done is serious enough to draw a suspension but not serious enough to call him a troublemaker.

Once is a mistake, but anything more than that and people start to wonder.

Derby isn’t the first nor will he be the last Iowa football player to behave this way. His older brother Zach Derby, who plays tight end for the Hawkeyes, was charged with public intoxication in April 2009.

A.J. Derby is a quarterback, though, and quarterbacks are judged largely on their ability to make the right decisions at the right times.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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