It's not often you see the Iowa football team linked to a potential transfer target from another FBS school. The occasional JUCO player, sure, but transfers from fellow big-boy schools have been few and far between. But judging from recent events, Kirk Ferentz may be happy to tear this particular page out of the Coach Baby playbook. They took on fullback Mark Weisman from Air Force earlier this year (he'll sit out the 2011 season, per transfer rules) and they're now Iowa's linked to former Missouri QB Tyler Gabbert:
Chuck Gabbert, the player’s father, said Tyler already is in contact with the following programs: Arizona, Arizona State, Clemson, Iowa, Louisville, Northwestern, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Arkansas State.
The Gabbert interest isn't totally out of the blue; as the Sporting News article (linked above) notes, Iowa was one of the five finalists for Gabbert's service sixteen months ago (along with Missouri, Nebraska, Wake Forest, and Oregon). Missouri was the choice then, no doubt in part because they were the home of his big brother, Blaine Gabbert, who ditched Mizzou for NFL riches after throwing for approximately three zillion yards in the Insight Bowl. The departure of Gabbert the Elder seemed to clear the way for Gabbert the Younger to take over the quarterback job, but a funny thing happened to that succession plan: fellow redshirt freshman James Franklin won the QB1 job after spring practice. So Gabbert decided to hit the bricks.
So... should Iowa want Gabbert? He was a fairly big-time recruit (4* Rivals, 4* Scout, 3* ESPN) with a boatload of offers from top schools (as well as Indiana, Wyoming, and Kansas), but he's not expected to be the same caliber passer as his brother because he doesn't have Blaine's size (6'5", 234) or cannon arm. In fact, his size was a red flag for many scouts -- he's just 6'1", 187 lbs. He also doesn't have a cannon arm, although his accuracy is highly praised.
Frankly, it's a little curious that there's (seemingly) mutual interest between Iowa and Gabbert. The quarterback depth chart at Iowa isn't exactly a logjam -- we don't have seven guys signed up there like, say, Vanderbilt -- but it's not empty, either. Iowa's taken a highly-ranked signal caller in each of the past two recruiting classes, so Gabbert would be in direct competition with the likes of A.J. Derby and Jake Rudock (he'd also be in the same year of eligibility as Derby, a redshirt sophomore). On the other hand, adding Derby and Rudock hasn't slowed down the quarterback recruiting at Iowa; they already offered a pair of highly-regarded prospects this year (Zeke Pike and Gunner Kiel) and the coaches have said in the past that they prefer to bring in at least one quarterback in each recruiting class for purposes of balance and continuity (not to mention general depth; no offense to the likes of former Iowa players Cy Phillips and Wyatt Seuss, but we'd really rather not see Iowa forced to press a walk-on quarterback into service).
There's also the style of play issue; Gabbert played in a spread offense in high school and most of the schools linked to him in the article above play some form of the spread. Iowa does not run the spread and, by all accounts, has no plans on running the spread in the forseeable future. Would Gabbert be able to adjust to Iowa's pro-style offense? How long would it take? And there's the fact that Gabbert, uh, bailed on Missouri after just sixteen months rather than sticking around and trying to win the starting job in the fall. Contrast that display of loyalty to, say, Jake Rudock sticking with Iowa despite a middling season on the field and late interest from Miami, his hometown suitors. Leaving Missouri after not being named QB1 after spring ball suggests that Gabbert is looking for a place to land where he can get the QB1 job with a minimum of fuss. It's hard to imagine that place being Iowa; if he came here and sat out a year, he'd still be faced with (RS) SR James Vandenberg, (RS) SR John Wienke, (RS) SO A.J. Derby, and (RS) FR Jake Rudock. Vandenberg and Wienke would be gone after his sophomore year, but Rudock and Derby would still figure to be serious competition (not to mention any potential quarterback Iowa brings in this year).
In the end, this is a curious rumor. It's hard to shake the feeling that Gabbert is being linked to Iowa mainly because Iowa was a finalist in his recruitment not that long ago. It seems like that marriage made a lot more sense then (before Iowa landed Rudock, before Derby showed signs of being a credible quarterback at the open practice, before Gabbert bolted Mizzou and opened up a slew of questions about his character) than it does now.