When I opened up the position battles, I said I was doing it by how compelled I am by the position battles. I buried the lede with the corners. Quarterback is what I have absolutely no “oomph” to write about. By all accounts, the two who played last year are great kids so I don’t want to get it twisted. I’m not questioning whether they care or are trying their hardest.
They just haven’t been put in a position to succeed, which feels like something which will just get exacerbated with Brian Ferentz’s move to QB coach after never coaching or playing the position in his life.
The leader in the clubhouse
Spencer Petras. He’s been Iowa’s starting quarterback for every game he’s been healthy enough to play. He was given leash against Northwestern and after halftime of the Michigan game to test out injuries he was nursing before getting pulled. Sure, there might be a legit QB competition but my read is that everyone’s running 100 yard dashes and he’s got a 50 yard headstart.
The stats are the stats. Career 57% thrower across 20 games. 6.4 yards/attempt. 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
When he’s on and his feet are set, he throws a really nice deep ball.
But those opportunities were few and far between last season and, as the injuries piled up his immobility increasingly closed off the playbook. Iowa tried the above play which won the game against Penn State the following week against Purdue and it was blown up with proper scouting. Some boot action worked against Michigan but Iowa leaned into too much of it and got their tackles worked.
Now maybe some of this gets cleaned up after Petras dropped some pounds in the offseason and the line gets more seasoned and Petras has clean pockets to operate in but 20 games of this is a lot of history to overwrite.
Unlike Petras, who was given every opportunity, Alex Padilla was pulled at halftime of the Nebraska game because he threw some throws Kirk Ferentz didn’t like. There was a lot not to like, to be fair, as he closed his 2021 with a sub-50% completion percentage and 5.7 yards/attempt. Yeash.
My thoughts throughout much of last year was Padilla offered the more intriguing option at QB but his size (6’1” on a good day) is a limiting factor as a pocket passer with some mobility. He’s got a quicker release than Petras, which makes up for some of the arm strength disparity, and was the more accurate high school quarterback but those days are long gone.
Redshirt freshman Joey Labas turned some heads as scout team QB and was able to put his name into a three-way QB race. With Padilla sitting out some of spring practice, maybe he’s able to make some moves. Carson May just came onto campus but has shades of Nate Stanley.
The elephant in the room
As mentioned above, improvement from the quarterback position will require just about everyone outside of quarterbacks to be better for the position to make strides but nowhere is it more important than offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Brian Ferentz. He has talked about how 6 or 7 plays can be the difference in the game, yet he calls the game in a way which can telegraph those plays instead of a way which might enable any play to be one of those plays.
I listened to about 15 minutes of the podcast he was on before he said he thought accuracy could be coached through eye placement and IQ, something which is at odds with one of the greatest offensive minds of our time, Mike Leach, has said: “The thing that’s amazing to me, is that after all of high school he’s not accurate, and now all of a sudden you’re special and you’re going to make him accurate?”
His new role does enable him to be with the QBs more which, theoretically, should enable some more grassroots feedback about what the players feel good about running. Jon Budmayr was also brought on as an unpaid analyst to overhaul how they read defenses and adjust progressions based on those reads.
Whether these changes move the offense forward remain to be seen.