Prep Football Scores

Browse Coverage

Iowa Football

Iowa negotiates the politics of quarterback

Hawkeyes have a pretty good one in junior Nate Stanley, but Power 5 QB might be the most fluid deal in college sports

Quarterbacks Peyton Mansell (2) and Ryan Schmidt (17) set up for a drill at an Iowa Hawkeyes football practice at the Indoor Practice Facility in Iowa City on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Quarterbacks Peyton Mansell (2) and Ryan Schmidt (17) set up for a drill at an Iowa Hawkeyes football practice at the Indoor Practice Facility in Iowa City on Wednesday, March 28, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
/

IOWA CITY — Live it up, college quarterbacks. By virtue of the singular nature of the position — there can be only one — you’ve been granted a free pass to transfer if things don’t work out.

This already has happened. Even 60-something-year-old football lifers like Kirk Ferentz and Ken O’Keefe have acquiesced. Actually, they’ve more than acquiesced. If the path ends with headphones and signaling in plays, the Iowa staff is absolutely about finding something that works. It happened twice to Iowa this offseason, with junior Tyler Wiegers transferring to Eastern Michigan and Ryan Boyle transferring out for an opportunity to play somewhere.

Statements were issued and no one appears to hold a grudge. So, kudos for the enlightened approach. Maybe Ole Miss and Michigan can get there with QB transfer Shea Patterson.

“It is different and it is hard,” O’Keefe said. “There are a lot of voices out there and now with the rule changes that allow people to move if you’ve got your degree — which I think is a fair rule, to be perfectly honest with you — they have the opportunity to go play somewhere else, play the game that they love and contribute to a team they can help, I think it’s a win for everybody in the end.”

Maybe Kirk Ferentz files this under “good problem.” Junior Nate Stanley was Iowa’s most consistent player on the Hawkeyes’ offense last season. Not just for the skill positions, but the junior from Menomonie, Wis., arguably was most consistent overall for the offense.

Stanley also was a first-year QB at Iowa who won eight games and helped snap a five-bowl losing streak with a first-year offensive coordinator. Stanley’s 26 TD passes tied for second in Iowa history (right there with Brad Banks in 2002).

For the most part in late-game situations, Stanley showed he can finish, completing 46 of 84 passes in the fourth quarter and overtime with seven TDs and two interceptions. Stanley’s fourth-quarter pass efficiency was 138.2, behind only Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, Wisconsin’s Alex Hornibrook and Penn State’s Trace McSorley in the Big Ten.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Was Stanley perfect? No. His completion percent was 55.8 percent, 10th in the Big Ten. Of course, that’s not all on Stanley, but that’s a number he’d like to see improve.

“Just continue to work on ball placement,” Stanley said. “That’s something coach O’Keefe stresses a lot. Being able to make the receiver’s job easier is something that can help boost those numbers a little bit.”

Stanley isn’t going away. He’s rooted as Iowa’s starting quarterback, for sure in 2018 and most likely for the next two seasons.

The investment has been made and the dividends paid off in 2017 and should in the future, if all holds as planned.

“He has done a really good job of doing the things necessary to learn the system,” O’Keefe said. “Studying the playbook. Studying the video. He can draw it all up. Now, he’s teaching it to all the other guys in the room. If you are able to do those four steps, in that order, he has a great chance of mastering what we want him to.”

The fact that Stanley is being allowed to white board plays to fellow QBs says a lot. Quicker decision making is the stock answer most QB coaches say about their QBs in the spring. O’Keefe certainly said that. This is Stanley’s path toward quicker decisions.

That “mastering what we want him to” sound familiar?

Here’s offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, in his role then as the offensive line coach, on C.J. Beathard going into the 2016 season: “Mastery of the system. If they can achieve that mastery, we have a chance to be really successful. And then the talent level is the other limiting factor. ... If you take both of those things and put them together, he’s got to be on par with the best we’ve had. I think his body of work and then you add the toughness and all of the aspects, the sky is the limit for him.”

It really feels like Iowa has a quarterback for now and for the future. You’re probably good if you buy a Stanley No. 4 Hawkeye jersey. You might want to hold off on redshirt freshman Peyton Mansell (No. 2) and freshman Spencer Petras (No. 7).

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Thank you for signing up for our e-newsletter!

You should start receiving the e-newsletters within a couple days.

O’Keefe would love to keep them around, but he also knows that might not be realistic, not with a bona fide starter who should be tracking toward all-conference caliber in 2018.

If you’re Iowa, you’re probably looking at this scenario from here until someone fiddles with the rules (someone always is fiddling with NCAA football rules). Iowa is on a hot streak at QB, with as many as four (Beathard, Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol in the Arena Football League and Nic Shimonek trending toward the NFL after finishing his career at Texas Tech) getting paid to play the game. This Iowa staff can find and make an established starter (Stanley). He’ll be backed up by a young and unproven player (Mansell). And there likely will be a freshman (Petras).

“I think that’s going to be the norm a little bit now, the way these guys are moving around and doing things,” O’Keefe said, referring to the three scholarship QBs (Iowa also has Linn-Mar walk-on Ryan Schmidt at the position). “You just have to be ready for it.”

Another reason why QB transfers might be the most adult of all college transfers is everything is on the table. The evaluations are constant. Practices are filmed for a reason. By the time it gets to the “conversation,” everyone can kind of see it coming.

For now, though, Iowa has three committed QBs hacking away at improvement.

Asked about Mansell, O’Keefe answered in a way that made it sound as if he’s been watching clean, competent and maybe pretty good film all spring.

“It’s so hard to explain the level of improvement and how it jumps when you’re a freshman who walks on campus in August to now,” O’Keefe said. “Everything has sped up. He has an understanding of what we’re looking for.”

You won’t get a read on what Petras says about any of this. As an Iowa freshman, he’s off limits for interviews until spring 2019 at the earliest. Still, you know he wants to be here. His journey to Iowa City screams commitment.

Petras and his mom Sarah flew from San Rafael, Calif., to Iowa City on Dec. 11 for a quick 24-hour visit. Four days later, he committed to the Hawkeyes. Less than a month after that, Petras was on the UI campus, enrolled in school and going through spring practice.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“He’s got a tremendous personality, you’ve got to love him as a kid,” O’Keefe said. “He’s got an ability to learn the game that I think is pretty special and has worked extremely hard to do that since he’s been here. He’s got a pretty good knack for feeling things on the field as well. We’re glad he’s here, especially with the exit of Tyler Wiegers and Ryan Boyle, that could be pretty important.”

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

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.

CONTINUE READING

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.