Iowa Football

Eventually, quarterback Spencer Petras will drive the Iowa offense

There was no spring, but that didn't mean coaches and teammates didn't have anything to say about the sophomore from California

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) throws a pass during the fourth quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) throws a pass during the fourth quarter of their game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Let’s allow ourselves to pretend for a moment.

Let’s pretend there will be a college football season. And, yes, the news there is bleak. Ohio State announced last week it will play host to an Ohio Stadium crowd that is 20 percent of capacity, roughly 21,500 fans.

The next few weeks are important in the college football schedule. Fall camps should be opening within this time period. The season is supposed to begin Sept. 5.

Where does Ohio State go after 20 percent? Probably no fans. Monday morning, the state of Ohio issued an order for no fans at games considered “contact sports,” with the order beginning Aug. 1. Where does it go after that? More than likely, the season starts getting pushed back.

For Iowa, it’s been a long break from football.

The Hawkeyes haven’t worn helmets since Dec. 27, when they beat USC in the Holiday Bowl. Iowa has traditionally held its spring practices later than most programs. This year, COVID-19 struck just before Iowa took spring snaps.

So, any sort of read on Iowa’s 2020 prospects is difficult. With the season hanging in the balance, reads on Iowa’s 2020 prospects might not matter.

So, with that thought, let’s talk about Iowa’s new quarterback Spencer Petras.

But first, the pressure of home cooking.

Petras, 6-foot-5, 230 pounds from San Rafeal, Calif., did decommit from Oregon State during his senior year at Marin Catholic. This set off another round of recruiting complete with coaches visiting the Petras’ home around the clock.

During a recent Zoom video meeting session, Iowa quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe had his players recount their recruiting visits. O’Keefe was the lead contact during Petras’ recruitment.

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“The first week that this happened after he decommitted, he had so many coaches before I got there,” O’Keefe said. “His mom (Sarah) was cooking for these coaches who came in every night. I remembered, ‘Hey, she didn’t cook for me.’ We had barbecue takeout or something. He said, ‘Yeah, she couldn’t take it anymore. The pressure was too much every night to just keep up trying to impress all these coaches.”

With Petras heading into his redshirt sophomore year, and with a clear runway to QB1, it’s safe to say O’Keefe hit it off with the Petras family.

Still, everyone missed spring practice with Iowa’s new quarterback. Here are some of the more interesting items teammates and coaches have shared since March.

Wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette offered an interesting observation on arm strength. (And, by the way, Petras and many of the wide receivers and tight ends stayed in Iowa City during quarantine and found fields to work out on.)

“Spencer is more of a touch person, got less speed, less of a bullet on it,” Smith-Marsette said. “So that’s mainly the difference between those two (Petras and three-year starter Nate Stanley, who’s now a Minnesota Viking). Other than that, both are very accurate, can move around in the pocket. Big, strong guys, bigger than me. A lot of people are bigger than me, but they both have got good accuracy. Great down-the-field ball and then the difference is just Spencer has a little bit more touch. Nate is more of a rocket guy.”

Don’t be alarmed.

“I don’t think there’s a throw that he can’t make,” O’Keefe said. “One of the areas he has to work on is his movement throws (bootleg rollouts, rolling the pocket). I think he’ll be fine. That is what he’s working on. The movement stuff is going to be critical.

“He has a really good feel for protections and the mental part of decision making that we need to make in the run game as well. But until you’re out there for 60 minutes with all the bullets flying and all that stuff, you can’t quite be sure what to expect. It’s all about what’s going to happen once the balls kicked off.”

Leadership style? That’s something we might be been able to get a small read on in the spring. Instead, Petras did get on stage with guard Kyler Schott and wide receiver Max Cooper during the UI Dance Marathon in February and lip synced and danced to some country. Petras eventually tore off his T-shirt.

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“Spencer is a natural leader,” wide receiver Brandon Smith said. “He shows a lot of characteristics that Nate has. He’s not afraid to be vocal. Nate, he wasn’t the most ‘rah-rah guy,’ but he’ll tell you, ‘Pick it up,’ or if you just need some encouraging words, like he’ll be that guy for you. I definitely think that Spence has those characteristics as well.

“And he has a strong arm. He’s a big guy. So he’s definitely a good quarterback fit.”

News should come down this week on when the Hawkeyes will be able to begin fall camp. No one knows how long that will last. When college football lands, Petras will be the starter for the Hawkeyes.

Let’s hear from his roommate, sophomore center Tyler Linderbaum.

“He’s a great guy,” Linderbaum said. “That’s all I really can say, he’s just he’s a special dude. He’s one of my best friends, and I’m excited for what’s ahead of him and what he brings to the table.”

Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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