Iowa Football

Iowa football recruiting 2018: QB, RB and blue shirt

NFL QB body from Cali; hard-core RB from Wisconsin; a safety from Iowa that Iowa will always want

Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz leads the team to the field for their game against Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz leads the team to the field for their game against Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
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Editor's note: Last in a six-part series evaluating Iowa football's incoming class. (Previously: LinebackersDefensive backsWide receiversDefensive line, Offensive line)

Iowa is going to recruit a quarterback every year, probably whether or not it needs one.

Quarterback is football’s transfer position. Just Google “quarterback transfers” to start the discussion. Clemson is the first entry. The Tigers had two QBs transfer in a week. Next is a post from Land of 10 on Michigan. The headline is “Michigan quarterback transfers ‘not a reflection of the program.’” Next is an SEC Country headline that reads “Quarterback transfers becoming an epidemic in SEC football.”

Even Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is in shrug mode on this. Not like he’s had a choice. Just in recent years, Cody Sokol (Louisiana Tech), Jake Rudock (Michigan) and Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech) left for opportunities to start. And then this winter, Tyler Wiegers did the graduate transfer thing to Eastern Michigan and Ryan Boyle announced that he will leave the program and seek a spot somewhere else after he graduates in May.

The cows are in the corn on the QB transfer thing. It’s not going anywhere, either.

So, Iowa is going to recruit a quarterback every year. It might not land one, but it will recruit them. Of course, last year, the Hawkeyes landed Spencer Petras, a 4-star from Rivals with 15 offers and — this is a new term I’m making up, so indulge me, please — four supercool offers, meaning schools that Iowa probably sees itself on par with or wants to be there with. For Petras, Iowa, Nebraska, Cal and Louisville were the supercools. He was committed to Oregon State. It’s too bad Gary Andersen ax murdered that program.

Bottom line with QBs? Don’t buy your favorite QB’s jersey until he throws five TD passes against Ohio State. It’s musical chairs. Know this going in.

Iowa is going to recruit a running back every year. That’s self explanatory. It’s a tough position and Iowa wants to be physical in the running game.

With just four scholarship running backs on scholarship this spring, you might get to know Henry Geil fairly quickly.

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And let’s not forget Ankeny’s Riley Moss. He’s a 6-1, 180-pound safety-type who has agreed to a “blue shirt” offer with the Hawkeyes. That means he wasn’t formally recruited and will be put on scholarship at the beginning for freshman practice, either in September or January. He can be on scholarship and practice. Basically, everyone has to pretend they found a player they want to have and then the scholarship can happen.

There are probably too many “shirts,” but loopholes are America.

Ferentz has said he doesn’t like the “grayshirt” scholarship thing because the player then couldn’t be part of the team that first semester, meaning no practice and no real attachment. Ferentz doesn’t like the sense of isolation that throws into the mix. For what it’s worth, Iowa hasn’t done a ton of grayshirts. Pella’s Noah Clayberg was the last one and he transferred to Dordt after the season.

Spencer Petras

Just because Spencer Petras went to the same high school as Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff doesn’t mean ...

OK, wait a minute. Here are Petras’ and Goff’s numbers at one point during their senior seasons at Marin Catholic: As a senior, Goff completed 235 of 368 passes for 3,692 yards with 40 TDs and 12 interceptions. Petras completed 199 of 313 passes for 4,157 yards and 50 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions.

There’s more.

Petras (pronounced PEE-tris) holds school records for passing yards in a game (502) and season (4,157), passing touchdowns in a game (5) and season (50) and single-game completion percentage (100 percent). The records for season yards and season touchdowns were previously held by Goff.

Absolutely and undeniably, there is a wait-and-see with Petras. He is on Iowa’s campus and participating in spring drills. In one quick 20-minute view of practice at the end of March, Petras clearly is all of 6-5, 225 and has the kind of arm you need to make all of the throws.

You can’t argue, though, with his production and the numbers and physical size are absolutely comparable to Goff.

“As good as he is, Spencer’s upside still is tremendous, which is scary,” Marin Catholic coach Mazi Moayed told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Physically, he still is growing. He’s a grinder on and off the field. He gets after it in the weight room.”

There’s some hype for you. Hopefully, you also read the wait-and-see part.

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Iowa QB coach Ken O’Keefe did a lot of dancing around to find Petras. Time was running out before the December signing period. Iowa offered Matthew Baldwin (Lake Travis/Austin, Texas), Zachary Wilson (Corner Canyon/Draper, Utah) and Petras about the same time. Ohio State offered Baldwin shortly after Iowa, so that was that. Petras said yes and that was that.

Throwing a little more mud onto the good rug, all three were committed to other places at the time — Baldwin with Colorado State, Petras with Oregon State and Wilson with Boise State.

“Quite frankly, I was getting a little worried about that,” Ferentz said. “Every quarterback since May or late April, you always find something wrong with them. I was starting to wonder if there was anybody out there who maybe would fit with us. I say that half in jest. Some of the guys we’ve really liked have committed to other places. It’s been a long, winding road.

“We hit the road after we finished up last game, came up on three guys who we really thought would be a good fit here. One guy got another offer shortly thereafter. He accepted that. It really came down to two young men. Playoff games are involved with both. They were trying to make their choices.

“A long story short, Spencer got knocked out (of the playoffs) I believe on a Saturday night, should have been Friday, but the game got pushed because of the fires. They came here, were sleep deprived Sunday afternoon. Had a very brief visit, he and his mom did. We just really felt good about the way he projected with us. Fortunately for us, mom and dad and Spencer were comfortable with what they saw here, what they learned.”

 

Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: Named Metro Player of the Year and conference Player of the Year as a senior ... Team Most Valuable Player as a senior ... First-team all-conference and team offensive MVP as a junior

Noteworthy offer: Oregon State

Depth chart in 2018?: Never say never. You just have to look at Iowa’s current starter Nate Stanley. In the last few years, Iowa has made the coordinators available for interviews after breaking camp. In 2016, former Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis was asked about the competition for the backup spot behind C.J. Beathard. The contestants were Stanley and Wiegers. Davis put the cards on the table and said Stanley was probably going to be the backup. He was and now he’s a potential all-conference QB and the most consistent offensive element Iowa will take into 2018.

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Nate Stanley

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No, I’m not trying to be clever. Stanley is 6-4 and 242 pounds. He has a big arm. There’s really no book on Petras’ athleticism right now, but he’s probably a little quicker than Stanley in the pocket. Still, big QB, big arm. I’d write that it feels like this is what Iowa wants, the big, NFL QB model, but that’s easy to say with two more years of Stanley and Petras in the chute. I think Iowa would play a 5-10 QB if he won the job.

Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell — “Spencer has a great family. His stats pop off the charts, but the thing that I like about him is he’s a big kid. He’s Stanley-esque in terms of stature. He’s a big kid, he’s going to be a big quarterback. Great arm. I’m just excited to see how he’s going to develop here.”

Bell on if Iowa is now exclusively hunting for the 6-5, 240-pound QB: “I don’t know if that’s a decision or if that’s just the way it works out. Myself, the thing that I value in a quarterback, regardless of 6-4 or 6-1, you’ve got to have great feet. You’ve got to have the ability to extend plays. I’m not talking long runs, I’m talking about just extending the play. When it breaks down, can you make something happen? The feet are so valuable at that position in my opinion. Spencer has a live arm and decent feet.”

My take: Petras’ video is fun to watch. Big arm and probably better athlete than given credit for. From the Iowa video, Petras didn’t lock in on one target. He really scanned the field and showed brilliant touch, throwing teammates open on several throws. One highlight at the 40-second mark, one of Petras’ receivers broke open, saw the ball go up in the air and that it wasn’t coming to him and he threw his arms up in frustration. Petras hit the tougher throw, clearing the defensive back and dropping the ball down the chimney for the TD.

Henry Geil

The Green Bay (Wis.) product is 6-1, 210. He potentially fits the big back role that Iowa often leans on.

Why else should this work? Geil didn’t get an offer from Wisconsin. The Badgers do have Jonathan Taylor, a sophomore who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards as a freshman last year. But logic doesn’t play into this. Consider the shoulder chip implanted for Geil.

Why else? Preble head coach Tim Larsen told HawkeyeReport.com “I would say right now, he is a very powerful runner. Once he gets into the open field, he is the type of guy that you won’t bring down easily.”

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Why else? In most of his interviews, Geil says stuff you’ve heard Iowa players say forever now. He’s been committed to Iowa since April.

Oh, and there’s opportunity. Iowa is at low tide on running back bodies, with four on scholarship this spring. Go a layer deeper and you find that Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin are Iowa’s only backs who’ve carried the ball in a game.

Kirk Ferentz said Iowa considered taking another running back in this class, but kept it to Geil.

“Iowa made it very clear very early on that Henry was at the top of their recruiting board,” Larsen told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “(Assistant) Coach (Tim) Polasek from Iowa feels that Henry’s style of running fits perfectly with what they do offensively. I’m also proud of Henry that he’s thinking about life after football. Iowa has a great business school and he’ll leave Iowa with a quality education and a promising career.”

Michigan State came calling late. Geil had other supercool offers from Iowa State and Indiana.

“I always had a really good feeling about Iowa,” Geil told the Press-Gazette. “It made the process so easy. It was something I was advised by people who have gone through it, is identify your top school early and start comparing other schools to it. It’s really easy to knock schools off like that.

“Michigan State was the closest contender to Iowa, followed closely by Iowa State. At the end of the day, what it comes down to is if you are comparing other schools to one big one and none of them can beat it or match it, the big one is what you are going to do. Once I sat down and realized that, I am a man of my word, so I’m not going to go around scheduling stuff and then call it off. I’m also not going to show up at a college knowing I’m committing somewhere else.”

Geil sounds all-in with Iowa. That’s a lot of the battle.

Iowa offered seven running backs in 2018. It was a need position. It says something that Iowa held on Geil.

“We offered a few running backs in the 2018 class,” Bell said. “We offered a running back here in the state. The things a lot of fans and a lot of people don’t understand in recruiting is you love who loves you. We track things like how many times a kid comes to campus. Henry showed up here back in February or it might’ve been early March and kept coming back. We kept getting a feel for the kid.”

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Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: State forensic champion ... Member of Diversity Leadership Club for three years, serving as president as a senior ... Three-year member of prep Honor Roll ... Team Leadership Award

Noteworthy offer: Michigan State

Depth chart in 2018?: Yes. Geil will step on campus as the No. 5. Here is a solid Iowa RB fact: Iowa has used at least four running backs in various roles — from every down to third down — every season since 2013. Four probably will play in 2018. How the roles sort out is to be determined. Here’s an Iowa RB observation: The pattern sure seems to be big guy and little, quicker guy. LeShun Daniels played the big role. That culminated in 1,058 yards as a senior in 2016. Jordan Canzeri and Akrum Wadley played the little roles. They combined for almost 5,000 rushing yards in their careers. Geil fits in the “big” category, so he’ll probably be butting heads with Young for carries, and, yes, Iowa potentially will have two running backs from the state of Wisconsin in its rotation.

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: LeShun Daniels

Comparable bodies. Daniels improved his feet and vision at Iowa and, when healthy, could be a devastating one-cut back. Geil’s film shows similar one-cut vision. He’s not slithery. He’s straight ahead and probably has the kind of speed that tests linebackers' spatial recognition. Geil doesn’t look fast until you’re trying to square up on him.

Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell — “There was a Michigan State offer and there were some other things in there as well, but we felt like he was the type of back we want. His skill set fits the way that we play. Still, it was going to be hard to get him to drive past Madison every time to come down here. Fortunately for us, just like Toren Young and a few other guys, guys slip through the cracks up there, too. We’re glad he’s on our team.”

Recruiting other RBs, you have to have a healthy ego to withstand that, right? Bell: “It’s about competition. The kids who look at a depth chart and try to figure out where they should or shouldn’t go to school, if that school’s recruiting you, they think you can play there. If you look at the depth chart and be discouraged, that’s on you. I’ve got news for you. For the rest of your life, you’re not going to be able to look at the depth chart when you decide to do something. You’re not going to be able to do it. You’ve got to go in and compete and make the best out of it.”

My take: His Iowa highlight video shows a lot of breakaway runs. How did Geil break away? He has great balance. Really keeps his shoulders square and is only thinking north-south. But he has quick feet, too, and is capable of that little quick cut on a defender in the open field that really opens up those big runs. Will run through wash, which probably will be the No. 1 thing for Iowa running back 2018. The Hawkeyes failed to rush for 100 yards in five losses last season. Like it or not, the running game is under the microscope in 2018.

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Riley Moss

Iowa has jumped into the projection pool a million times with players. It’s how Iowa has to be.

With that in mind, Riley Moss makes a lot of sense. Rivals has its board. All the recruiting websites have the lists of the players everyone wants. Iowa is totally comfortable moving in on a player without a ton of supercool offers or really any supercool offers.

Moss did have an offer from Northern Illinois. Iowa and NIU are kind of brother programs. They share a lot of the “win the line of scrimmage” mentality. So, when Iowa makes a move on a NIU-offered player (in this class, OL Jeff Jenkins and WR Samson Evans had NIU offers).

Iowa didn’t start pursuing Moss, who’s slated for safety with the Hawkeyes, until about midway through his senior year at Centennial High School.

“So, they kind of came in late,” Moss told HawkeyeReport.com. “They started showing interest midway through my senior season. They looked through my Hudl and then invited me to a couple of game-day visits. I kept talking with the coaching staff. I met with coach (Phil) Parker after the Purdue game. We sat and talked with what it would be like at Iowa and what they would expect from me. Iowa is not like any other university in terms of football. It is a grind, which I am pumped for. We went over that during the conversation.”

Before the mid-senior year interest, Iowa hadn’t sought out Moss. North Dakota State offered Moss a 100-percent full scholarship, something that’s not always the case on the FCS level. You know how Iowa feels about the NDSU program. The Bison beat Iowa in 2016 and then Iowa hired their offensive coordinator (Tim Polasek).

And, you know, if you’re Iowa, you want to lock down the state of Iowa. The Iowa staff thought Moss deserved the call-up.

“In the state of Iowa, you want to get those kids on your roster anyway you can,” Bell said.

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Most interesting thing from hawkeyesports.com bio: Earned two letters in football as a defensive back, wide receiver and return specialist ... Scored a touchdown as a senior via reception, punt return, and kickoff return

Noteworthy offer: Northern Illinois

Depth chart in 2018?: Probably not. There’s probably going to be some body build for Moss, who’s 6-1ish and 182 pounds. Also, Iowa probably is OK at safety this year. Senior Jake Gervase might’ve planted a flag in the free safety spot with an excellent Pinstripe Bowl. Junior Amani Hooker probably saved the Pinstripe win with two TD-saving tackles. Senior Brandon Snyder is coming off an ACL tear, but probably will be healthy for August. And sophomore Geno Stone made the most of the playing time he saw late last season.

Off-the-top-of-my-head Hawkeye comparison: Jake Gervase

The path is similar. Gervase came out of Davenport Assumption and had to earn a scholarship. Gervase started around 6-1, 180 pounds and is now a solid 200. Moss might offer some return skills.

Iowa recruiting coordinator Kelvin Bell, talking about seeing Moss play live this season — “You can see the skill set the kid has. Unfortunately, he was matched up against their best receiver, so he was all over the place and they weren’t throwing the ball there, so I didn’t get to see much. In terms of his film and the intangible things that we value, he’s a smart player, he’s got athletic ability and he really wanted to be here. When you’ve got those things, you can come here and be successful. That’s why he’s in the class.

My take: Moss is a prototypical Phil Parker recruit, mostly off the radar and a nice, quiet reel into a blue shirt offer. His Iowa highlight video shows a safety that plays with reckless disregard for his own body. Moss really throws himself around out there. But ... it’s a controlled burn. He can really break on the ball and when he does, he arrives at the receiver in position to make a clean tackle and, a few times on this video, a devastator.

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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