116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras took some Iowa fans by surprise Tuesday night.
A video showed Petras launching a pass with ease for roughly 70 or 75 yards while he was at the Manning Passing Academy.
“My goodness,” one fan tweeted as it circulated around social media. By Thursday evening, it had almost 72,000 views on Twitter.
But the person who recorded the video wasn’t surprised.
“The biggest thing that people don’t realize, I think, in Iowa is how well he throws the football and how strong his arm is,” said Tony Racioppi, who was on the staff at the Manning camp.
Racioppi also has been Petras’ private quarterback coach, working with him on many of the tweaks that could make a big difference for the Hawkeyes’ offense.
Not unlike other Power Five quarterbacks, there were some adjustments needed to his mechanics when Petras visited Racioppi shortly after the 2021 season.
Offseason priorities in 2022 have included “cleaning up his throwing sequence,” adjusting his footwork, staying balanced and maneuvering around the pocket.
“When my fundamentals are correct, I don’t miss,” Petras said in the spring.
Petras had another familiar face on his trips this year to work with Racioppi — Iowa wide receiver Nico Ragaini.
“It’s a lot of fun actually,” said Ragaini, who also is one of Petras’ roommates. “It’s all for him. … Not like there’s a receiver coach out there.”
Having Ragaini there provided Petras with someone who he’ll be throwing to in the game situations that matter.
“The more they can throw to their own guys, the better,” Racioppi said.
Ragaini, meanwhile, gets “more time to build chemistry and work on stuff,” he said, outside of the 15 NCAA-permitted team practices in the spring.
The New Jersey routine usually started with Ragaini catching balls from drills, Racioppi explained, and ended with “all the routes they’re going to run at Iowa.”
With former Colorado State offensive coordinator and Wisconsin quarterbacks coach Jon Budmayr working as a volunteer analyst at Iowa, the offense has “changed a little bit,” Ragaini said. That includes new passing routes.
"We haven’t went in here and like changed the offense completely,“ Ragaini said. “We just added some stuff, and it seemed to work over spring ball.”
There are some non-football perks of the trips to New Jersey, too.
“We pretty much do that at like noon every day, so we get to sleep in pretty late,” Ragaini said.
They enjoyed the New Jersey cuisine, too.
“We ate pretty good food out there,” Ragaini said. “Spencer was big on the New Jersey bagels. I’ve been trying to lean off the carbs a little bit, so I didn’t touch them.”
Petras didn’t enjoy too much of the cuisine, though.
He slimmed down from 234 pounds to 226 between the 2021 season and 2022 spring practices although he recently was officially listed at 231 on the 2022 roster.
“Usually what I’ll do is at least one day after we throw, I’ll be like, ‘Hey guys, let’s go grab pizza,’” Racioppi said. “Because we’ve got some of the best pizza in the world here. … And (Petras) was like, ‘I’m good, Coach. I’m good.'”
A lighter, more-fit Petras could make a “drastic” difference in the fall, Racioppi said, particularly with the possibility of extending the play “a little bit longer.”
“He looks quicker,” Racioppi said. “He looks lighter on his feet. He’s more athletic in the pocket moving around.”
Iowa fans shouldn’t expect him to be running 75 yards on zone reads, though, Racioppi said.
“That’s not him,” Racioppi said. “It’s never going to be him.”
Racioppi doesn’t see 5,000 yards and 55 touchdowns as feasible in 2022 with Iowa’s less-pass-centric offense — “they just don’t play that way, which I’m good with” — but he’s optimistic about an improvement this year from Petras’ 57 percent completion rate in 2021.
“I see for him to be in the 60s for sure,” Racioppi said. “I think if we can go from 57 and get to mid-60s, he’s playing really good football because, at the end of the day, they take shots.”
Time will tell how the improvements translate into fall camps and games amid the competition with fellow quarterbacks Alex Padilla and Joe Labas.
“I could talk about him until I’m blue in the face on how much he’s improved,” Racioppi said. “But at the end of the day, he’s got to go out there, and he’s got to play well. … It’s all about what he does at 12 o’clock in Kinnick on Saturdays.”
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