116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Some Iowa quarterbacks have fared better in the classroom than others.
Drew Tate? “He'd rather have a ball in his hand than a pen,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said.
“I'll let you draw your own conclusions,“ Ferentz said with a subtle grin.
Alex Padilla? That’s a different story.
“He’s a smart guy,” running back Tyler Goodson said. “It shows on the football field, and it shows off the football field when I’m just hanging around him.”
Padilla, his roommate Goodson said, “has a lot of power in his mind upstairs.”
That intelligence has helped Padilla, a neuroscience major, take the reins of Iowa’s pro-style offense that puts a lot of responsibility on the quarterback smoothly in the middle of the season.
“Normal major college football is so simplified right now to try to just expedite the best athlete getting on the field,” said Tim Jenkins, a former NFL quarterback and Padilla’s private throwing coach. “Iowa puts as much on their quarterback as the Denver Broncos do.”
Most of that added responsibility comes after the play call and before the snap.
Tight end Sam LaPorta said Iowa’s play calls “quite often” have two plays for the quarterback to choose from.
“So they go up and kill the first play, and we're running the second play,” LaPorta said. “You’d be surprised. Ten or 15 checks happen every game that kind of go unnoticed. They just happen so quickly.”
It’s not like Padilla — or former starter Spencer Petras or whoever else is at quarterback — is entirely changing plays throughout the game, though.
“It’s not one of those things where they go up to the line like Peyton Manning-style and they give like 40 code words,” LaPorta said. “No Omahas.”
Having an intelligent quarterback is nothing new for Iowa. Ferentz grouped Padilla’s football IQ with that of most of his starting quarterbacks in recent history.
“That room has been pretty cerebral throughout, so yeah, none of these guys surprise me,” Ferentz said.
The 23-year head coach also has seen cases of academic intelligence not translating to football intelligence.
“I used to joke that engineers don't always make good football players,” Ferentz said. “Mike Elgin broke that rule.”
That being said, Ferentz realizes Padilla’s intelligence “doesn’t hurt” when taking over Iowa’s offense.
Jenkins pointed to the attribute as a major part of the seamless Petras-to-Padilla transition, though.
“That's why he can step in and play despite not getting that many reps, and why he's been successful early,” Jenkins said.
Some of Padilla’s numbers in three games running the offense would not exactly be a passing grade on a neuroscience test.
After completing a respectable 64.3 percent of his passes against Northwestern, the sophomore has been successful on less than half of his passes in his two starts.
Against Minnesota, he hit 45.8 percent of his throws. Against Illinois, he was at 35.3 percent.
Had Iowa receivers caught the nine passes that were dropped in Padilla’s two starts, his completion percentage as a starter would be 63.4. Four of nine passes caught — some drops are inevitable — would mean 51.2. Instead, it’s 41.5.
Jenkins also made the case that Padilla was taking some high-reward, low-percentage throws that dampened his completion rate.
“When you’re at a school like Iowa, you don’t get a lot of stat-padding,” Jenkins said. “You don’t get the Ohio State bubble screen completion as often.”
Padilla had only one throw at or behind the line of scrimmage against Illinois, although he had five against Minnesota and eight against Northwestern.
Ferentz has been hesitant to overtly declare Padilla as Iowa’s permanent No. 1 quarterback, at least publicly.
“If we were playing tomorrow, he'd be our quarterback,” Ferentz said Tuesday, moments before also praising Petras.
He didn’t reveal much after Saturday’s win over Illinois either. When asked if Padilla is officially the starter moving forward, Ferentz quipped, “Well, officially, today he was, yeah.”
Ferentz’s actions leave little doubt as to who the starter is, though.
Padilla has been the starter on the weekly depth chart for the last three weeks, including two weeks in which Petras was available.
Throughout pregame warmups, Padilla took all of the first-team reps, so it was clear his coyness — he didn’t even name Padilla the starter in his pregame radio interview — wasn’t fooling anybody.
Padilla was the guy — pen in hand studying neuroscience and ball in hand at Kinnick — last week.
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