If you’re expecting an answer on Iowa’s quarterback situation, you’ll have to wait a while.
The competition for the starting job is “open,” coach Kirk Ferentz said on Wednesday as the Hawkeyes open spring practice.
Spencer Petras, Iowa’s starter for the last two seasons, is No. 1 on the depth chart, followed by Alex Padilla and Joe Labas.
Ferentz said he knew he would get questions about the position.
“Don’t have any answers, but go ahead,” he equipped.
Petras started all eight games of the shortened 2020 season, then had 10 starts last season, He missed two games because of an injury, with Padilla getting the starts.
Both quarterbacks had their good and bad moments. Petras 57.3 percent of his completed passes, with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Padilla 49.1 percent of his completed passes, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“I think the good news is that we feel they’re both capable of playing really good football for us,” Ferentz said. “And our goal is to try to get them to play a little bit better and everybody around them helping a little bit more. I think, really, that’s the story of our offense right now.”
Ferentz said Petras and Padilla have had the opportunity to show what they can do.
“Everybody’s competing right now,” Ferentz said. “And on one hand, (Petras has) got an edge or things he does better than Alex. But I can flip it around saying there’s things that Alex can do a bit better too. We’ll ride it out, see where it all goes. But we’ll get it figured out. And the good news is both guys are totally capable.”
Labas, a redshirt freshman, is the wild-card of the mix because of his lack of game experience.
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“Obviously two guys have a real distinct advantage knowing what to do,” Ferentz said. “So just getting up to the line and getting the ball snapped and having us in the right place, that’s a heck of a start. And it sounds pretty routine and easy. But for Joe, right now, there’s a process to that.
“Usually if a guy redshirts, that’s part of the thing right now, is him processing and reading things and all the ABC stuff. So he’s in a little different category as far as the learning process. It will be really quick or interesting for us to watch how much he can pick up and how fast in 15 days. Whereas, both Alex and Spencer have a little bit, obviously an edge there. They’ve played. They’ve been out there when games end.”
A NEW VOICE: Offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz also will be the quarterbacks coach this season, replacing Ken O’Keefe, who retired after last season.
“When Ken made that decision, then my thoughts were to shift Brian over,” Kirk Ferentz said. “I think it makes sense. And really all that, outside of 1999 and the last couple of years, that’s been the way we’ve been operated. The guy calling the plays is coaching the quarterback directly. Personally, I think if he can get that situation, it’s better. And Brian is more than capable of doing that job. And he knows our offense better than anybody, quite frankly.”
It’s a coaching position where Brian Ferentz hasn’t had any experience.
“I certainly didn’t play the offensive line,” said Kirk Ferentz, who was Iowa’s offensive line coach from 1981-1989. “I’m not saying I wasn’t a great line coach but I got by for a while. You learn things. You study things. You visit with people who really are experts. And that’s how you learn. That’s how you grow.
“And he’ll make mistakes — just like I’ll make mistakes every day, he’ll make them, too, but I’m pretty sure he’ll try to fix them, and that’s the biggest thing that we’ll have .”
O’Keefe, who was Iowa’s offensive coordinator from 1999-2011, also worked as the Hawkeyes’ quarterback coach for 12 seasons during that run, then came back to be quarterbacks coach in 2017.
“I guess in my mind, I felt like if we could get three good years out of Ken, we’d be doing really well and that would get us up and running,” Ferentz said. “And fortunately we got more than three.”
COMPLETING THE THROW: Whoever is the starter, Ferentz knows the Hawkeyes have to have a better completion percentage. Iowa completed 55 percent of its passes last season.
“It’s a real team effort,” Ferentz said. I always give you the same answer typically — you guys hate it — but it’s execution. It really gets down to execution. We’ve gone through the phase of going back and looking at tape and studying tape. And I swear over 23 years it doesn’t change an awful lot.
The execution, certainly play calling has something to do with it. Certainly how you match a play against not so much the play you run but how you match it against what they do. Somebody’s gotta get open. That’s another factor, etc. You’ve got to have a lot of protection. A lot of things go into it. Quarterback has to keep his feet set hopefully, and although some of those plays we saw in the playoffs, just unbelievable. But you’re not going to make a living, at least we’re not going to make a living doing that.”