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ORLANDO, Fla. — Kirk Ferentz wants a quarterback competition between Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla in 2022.
“I’m hoping they both stay here and let the best man win, one of those types of deals,” Ferentz told reporters on Dec. 23, three days before boarding a flight for Iowa’s Citrus Bowl trip.
The odds are against Ferentz’s wish becoming a reality.
It’s not impossible. Petras and Padilla are a junior and sophomore, respectively, and have given no public indication of a looming departure.
If Iowa’s quarterback situation follows the same trend as the rest of the Big Ten, that Petras-Padilla 2022 scenario appears to be unlikely.
Going into the Citrus Bowl, Padilla has accounted for about 30 percent of the team’s passing attempts.
When this same scenario happened at other Big Ten programs from 2017-20 — two quarterbacks attempting at least 25 percent of the team’s throws — at least one almost always leaves.
Over that four-year span, this situation has happened 21 times. In 17 of those cases, at least one quarterback sought a change of scenery after the season.
The extent of that change varies. For Illinois’ Isaiah Williams, it was just from the quarterback room to the wide receiver room. That requires having a quarterback with elite speed, and Iowa doesn’t have that.
Four times, at least one of the quarterbacks exhausted their eligibility and wouldn’t have been around anyway. Even excluding those three, the 14-of-18 numbers don’t tilt the scale much.
The other 13 either transferred to another school — Artur Sitkowski’s move from Rutgers to Illinois and Joe Milton III’s move from Michigan and Tennessee are two examples — or left the team early for non-football endeavors.
Should Petras or Padilla say goodbye to Iowa, Ferentz still might have a quarterback competition, albeit with a less familiar name. Third-string quarterback Joey Labas, a freshman taking scout-team reps, has impressed his teammates and coaches.
"He’s definitely done some surprising things that you would be like, ‘Wow,’“ said safety Kaevon Merriweather, who has seen plenty of Labas’ scout-team work. ”I’ve seen him throw like a sidearm — like Patrick Mahomes — pass and completed it.”
Ferentz said Labas has been doing a “good job” while doing some work with the second-team offense although Iowa might have a “small playbook” if he needed to play in Saturday’s bowl game.
The 23-year head coach didn’t totally rule out searching for a quarterback in the transfer portal either.
“You never say never,” Ferentz said in his signing day news conference.
Petras’ shoulder injury against Wisconsin opened the door for the 2021 Petras-Padilla competition. After Petras tried to play through the injury against Northwestern, Padilla replaced him and added a spark to the often-frustrating offense.
Ferentz said after Padilla’s first extended opportunity he’d need to “look at the film” before deciding who was the starter. Even when Petras was available against Illinois and Nebraska, Padilla started.
But when Padilla struggled against Nebraska with the doors appearing to close on the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten Championship Game berth aspirations, Petras took the reins of the offense in the second half in Lincoln, Neb.
Petras started the Big Ten title game, but the ping-pong between which quarterback was under center continued with Padilla’s entrance in the game.
A torso injury — not Petras’ 9-for-22 performance — sidelined the junior in the Big Ten Championship Game, Ferentz said after the 42-3 loss to Michigan in Indianapolis.
Petras is practicing again and “looks good out there,” Ferentz said on Dec. 23.
Ferentz hasn’t officially declared a starting quarterback for the Citrus Bowl. Petras was the first-team quarterback on last week’s depth chart, but Ferentz declined to name a starter on Dec. 23.
“We’ll see,” Ferentz said. “We’ll decide that next week. But happy with both (Petras) and Alex.”
At least for now, Iowa has a Padilla-Petras quarterback competition. Time will tell whether that extends into 2022.
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