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IOWA CITY — Before Ryan Boyle showed up for the spring game in a black jersey instead of the traditional red for quarterbacks (as in “stop and don’t hit the most important player in practice”), Kirk Ferentz kind of let it slip that a position switch was in the works.
Ferentz mentioned that Boyle, a redshirt freshman from Des Moines, was working on some special teams. QBs are often holders, so, yeah, that left some doubt on a potential move.
Boyle’s switch from quarterback, a position from which he helped guide West Des Moines Dowling to two Class 4A state championships, did end up being the big spring move/news.
And, no, he wasn’t trying out for holder, either.
“Not holder, no, no,” Boyle said during Iowa’s media day Saturday. “I’m running down and knocking heads with some people. It’s still early in camp with the depth chart. It’s a tossup to what I might be playing on special teams, but anywhere I can help, I’ll be happy.”
In a year, Boyle has gone from quarterback to wide receiver and special teams coverage. It’s quite a leap and, of course, a big driver for Boyle was the fact that senior C.J. Beathard is forged in iron as Iowa’s starting QB this season. Beathard was second team all-Big Ten last season.
“He understands right now that C.J. is going to be our quarterback,” Ferentz said. “Everybody understands that. He’s just looking for a way to make our football team better. I think he’s enthused about it. I’m excited about it.”
Everyone is kind of interested in this and it’s not just outside observers.
“You guys saw in the spring what he’s capable of,” senior wide receiver Matt VandeBerg said. “He was with us for only two days before the spring game. He’s a good addition.”
In the spring game, Boyle caught two passes for 44 yards and a TD, which was a natural-looking over-the-shoulder catch.
“Ryan has an understanding of the offense from playing quarterback,” wide receivers coach Bobby Kennedy said. “The transition isn’t like a defensive back going to the offense. He understands the route schemes, the concepts, where to line up and align. He has a bunch of learning and growing to do, but I’ve been pleased with him so far.”
Where Beathard had quarterback as locked down like a penitentiary, wide receiver is an open invitation. On Iowa’s most current depth chart, sophomores Jerminic Smith and Jay Scheel were listed as co-starters. Smith caught six passes last season. Scheel saw three snaps. At one of the other wide receiver spots, senior Riley McCarron is listed as the starter with sophomore Adrian Falconer sitting No. 2. McCarron caught five passes last year. Falconer had one target.
VandeBerg is Iowa’s top returning receiver with 65 catches in 2015.
“To be able to play in Kinnick on a Saturday, that’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing,” Boyle said. “Just to help the team out in this way, I couldn’t ask for more.”
Ferentz has left the door open on a return to quarterback. At a solid 6-1, 208, Boyle is a different body type than Iowa’s other QBs (which range from 6-2 Beathard to 6-4 Tyler Wiegers and then a trio of 6-5s). Boyle also rushed for more than 3,000 yards and 45 TDs at Dowling. He has read-option skills, but that’s not something Iowa has asked out of its QBs. That could change, and that probably depends on where Boyle ultimately ends up.
“It’s strictly a fall contract,” Ferentz said. “We’ll revisit this whole thing in January. He’ll drive the ship on that whole thing.”
Boyle’s answer to the “is this permanent” question does show a QB’s acumen for reading situations.
“I’m just trying to live in the present right now,” Boyle said. “I want to give my best to wide receiver and special teams and be the best team guy I can be.”