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IOWA CITY — Spencer Petras is “overall” the leader at this point in Iowa’s 2022 quarterback battle, Kirk Ferentz said after Saturday’s open practice, but hold off on writing anything in Sharpie.
“We have an open mind about every position on the team, certainly the quarterback spot,” Ferentz said.
Saturday’s open practice, while a small sample size as just one of the 15 practices from the last month, gave the impression that Petras appears to still have plenty of work to do before winning the quarterback job.
Petras completed less than half his passes in practice against the first-team defense that was missing several key players, including linebacker Jack Campbell and safety Kaevon Merriweather.
Padilla, on the other hand, completed four of his first five passes against the second-teamers, and it may have been five of his first six if one pass wasn’t batted down at the line of scrimmage.
Joe Labas then came in and completed seven of his first eight passes, but it was against the third-team defense.
The three-way competition was set up after both Petras and Padilla stayed following the 2021 season — a relative anomaly in the Big Ten for two quarterbacks who played as much as they did.
“I'm not going to shy away from competition,” Padilla said Saturday. “I feel like this situation was really good for me — to come back into a competition.”
He doesn’t have to look far to see the perils of the transfer portal. Former teammate Deuce Hogan entered the transfer portal in November and found a new home after the season with Kentucky, but the Wildcats didn’t have a scholarship for him.
“You're playing with fire when you go in there,” Padilla said of the transfer portal. “You never really know what’s going to happen, but I love it here.”
Padilla said he’s been working on getting “a little bit stronger” and “a little bit faster.” While Petras has cut his weight from 233 to 226, Padilla has bulked up from 197 to 207.
Padilla has seen Petras’ slimmer appearance make a difference on the field.
“He looks more mobile,” Padilla said. “Even Brian (Ferentz), who is the most critical of us out of anyone, has said he that he’s looked fast at times, which is a big compliment to him.”
Meanwhile, teammates and coaches alike have been impressed with the progression of Labas, who will be a redshirt freshman in 2022.
“He's made progress,” Kirk Ferentz said. “He's doing a good job. He's still has a lot to learn. We would expect that, certainly do. He has a good attitude, works very hard, very conscientious. As you saw, he does some good things out there.”
It’s unclear at this point whether Labas can do enough in his second year on campus to earn the starting gig over two quarterbacks Ferentz has “won football games with.”
“Right now Joe has a ways to go for us to have confidence that he can go out and play,” Ferentz said. “I think Joe has a chance.”
While Iowa has the same players in the quarterback room as it did a couple months earlier at the Citrus Bowl, there are some other factors in play for the 2022 competition.
Padilla said the quarterbacks have changed their thought process to allow for “a lot quicker decisions.” Specifically, they’re “basing our reads off of coverage or off of pure progression” and “really eliminating guys based off the coverage.”
Instead of having to eliminate “five guys in the progression,” Padilla said now it’s one, two or three.
Veteran quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe retired, and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz switched from coaching tight ends to coaching quarterbacks.
Former Colorado State offensive coordinator and Wisconsin quarterbacks coach Jon Budmayr joined the staff as a volunteer analyst.
Budmayr’s official responsibilities include self-scouting, opponent scouting and “other analytics as needed” by Ferentz or the assistant coaches, according to his volunteer agreement obtained by The Gazette through a public records request.
“He's brought a lot of different thoughts into our minds and Brian's mind about quarterback play,” Padilla said.
NCAA rules bar him from providing tactical training to athletes, though, because he is in a non-coaching position.
As the quarterback competition continues into the summer months, the two front-runners have the benefit of also being close friends — something a little safer to write in Sharpie.
“If you're going into work every day with someone that you dislike, it wouldn't be as fun,” Padilla said. “The fact that we're such great friends and we're competing with each other, it makes it easier for sure.”
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