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IOWA CITY — Iowa quarterback still is a tug o' war. Head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said as much Monday after practice.
Junior Tyler Wiegers and sophomore Nathan Stanley remain locked in competition, as they were this spring and when fall camp began in July. The clock is ticking. Wyoming marches into Kinnick Stadium in a week and a half.
'We'll have a starter named Monday, at the latest,' Kirk Ferentz said. 'I'm not sure when that decision will get made. The competition remains really close. Both guys have certainly improved since spring and have made progress during these 19 or 20 practices.'
Wiegers and Stanley are still rotating in with the first- and second-team. It's 11 days before the season opener. The fact that reps are still being split says this is probably a tight competition. Is it a 90/10 split? We don't know.
Can you wait until Monday on this?
'It's like any personnel decision we make,' Brian Ferentz said. 'You have that conversation with the players, 'Hey look, we're doing what we think is best for the team. That's what we have to do. That's our job. We have to live with that.''
The fun part of this was Kirk Ferentz taking questions on the QB topic, saying some words and yet not moving the subject very far off 'Competition is close, decision is coming.'
Question: Is it unclear because the guys are playing so well, or are you still looking?
'Nobody has pulled away,' Ferentz said. 'It's still neck-and-neck. At some point we'll have to make a decision here and it'll happen sometime between now and Monday for sure.'
Question: At some point do you sit down with the staff and name a quarterback?
'At some point, we'll all sit down and talk and we do that every day, not just periodically,' Kirk Ferentz said. 'We evaluate all of the players every day. This is certainly a more prominent position. If one guy had pulled away by now, we would've gone ahead and named him. Right now, it's still pretty close.'
Question: How much is the QB race translating the new offense?
'The biggest thing is getting themselves comfortable and then also getting comfortable with their teammates,' Kirk Ferentz said. 'There are a lot of moving parts in that passing game.'
It probably would've been easier to put some specifics to the conversation. Show a passing chart from the last week or practice. Throw out a metric that tangibly shows how close the race is. Would it be fair to air that laundry? Do you think 70,585 fans will be understanding if the score at the end of the first half in 11 days is 7-3? Uh, they won't. They'll be freaking out.
This is where we'll discuss the human element that goes along with this decision. There are numbers and data, but then there's what a coach sees and hears. This is also known as 'the gut decision.'
'You want to look at the tangible data,' Brian Ferentz said. 'You also have to go with what you see and what you feel. That's all part of the decision. If one of those things is so obviously different, then of course it's an easier decision.
'. . . When you look at two guys who haven't played a lot of football, it's not unexpected that it's so close, but now it gets a little harder because you're looking at all three of those things and you're trying to make that decision and you want to make sure something doesn't outweigh the other thing and you're being as fair as possible.'
Two bits of logistics were fleshed out a little bit.
The staff discussion on the topic is real. It does try to reach consensus on most personnel decisions, Brian Ferentz said. Ultimately, there is a chain of command and decisions flow that way.
'That would be a great story, wouldn't it?' Brian Ferentz said with a smile in response to a question about the staff possibly being divided over QB. 'If I just came out and told you, 'Shoot, we go into that staff meeting every day and we're as divided as Washington, D.C.'
'Right now, there's no division. We're all trying to find out what's best for our football team. Obviously, the quarterback thing gets the most attention, but we have other position battles going on, too. Every day we're having personnel discussions and trying to put our best 11 on the field.'
The other logistic discussed was evaluation. Iowa had a historically bad passing game last season (fewest total yards since 1982). There will be a new QB this year. There's a new offensive coordinator. The wide receiver group is undergoing an almost total rebuild.
All of that newness makes it more difficult to evaluate. The QB can be on time and on target and the true freshman wide receiver might drop it or be in the wrong spot.
'The chemistry and the jelling of things, it looks better than it did in April,' Kirk Ferentz said. 'Two weeks ago (open scrimmage), it was a hit-and-miss type of thing. We're gaining ground. Anytime you have new players, there's going to be that.'
Brian Ferentz said there's always frustration at this stage. The clock is ticking. When you're trying to figure out QB, a rep the defense wins sets you back.
'I get frustrated with our most-experienced positions just like the rest of the coaching staff does,' Brian Ferentz said. 'Practice is so up and down at times. What you're always trying to look at is the whole, the big picture over time. You have your ups and downs that are within the immediate part of practice, and then as things go you see a clear picture start to develop, whether it's the young guys or the veteran guys.
'You try not to get too hung up on where you're at on day 5 of camp and try to withhold that judgment until day 15 or 16. Things are becoming much clearer now.'
Kirk Ferentz was asked if he was confident a QB would emerge by Monday. And this was the straightest talk he offered Monday.
'If they don't, then we will pick one,' he said.
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