Iowa Football

Iowa 2020 depth chart projections, QB: Spencer Petras has a chance, but it has to be earned

Let's start with the QB who's all your'n

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras throws a pass against Middle Tennessee State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday
Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras throws a pass against Middle Tennessee State at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — It’s time to take your troubles to the highwall, throw ’em in the river and get your fill.

Or it’s time to go runnin’ through the thicket and go careless through the thorns. Maybe it’s time for fried morels and fine hotels and all that in the middle.

“Oh the days are dark down in the holler, waiting for the sun to shine ... ,” Tyler Childers sings in “Peace of Mind.” “... on the back you’ve been breaking, trying to earn peace of mind.”

You’re about to get to know sophomore quarterback Spencer Petras. In due time, you’ll learn about him as a quarterback. The 6-5, 230-pounder from San Rafael, Calif., threw for 4,157 yards and 50 TDs his senior year at Marin Catholic High School in 2017. Your eyes are open now.

Petras is a huge Tyler Childers fan. That’s where all of the words above come from, the Americana star from Paintsville, Ky.

Iowa had a country music quarterback in C.J. Beathard. No one ever asked Nate Stanley about music because reporters couldn’t get over the fact that he’d never been downtown in Iowa City and that remained an endless source of fascination, as you might imagine. And now, the Hawkeyes have an Americana QB.

OK, Petras still has to win the job. There is that.

Whomever wins Iowa’s QB job for 2020 will inherit the most complete and probably the best overall wide receiver group in Kirk Ferentz’s now going on 22 years as Iowa’s head coach.

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There’s a pretty good running back. There’s a sophomore tight end who reminds people of a recent Hawkeye first-rounder.

Iowa won’t sign a bigger recruit than left tackle Alaric Jackson. The return of the 6-6, 320-pounder was perhaps the best news for Iowa fans coming out of the Hawkeyes’ Holiday Bowl victory over USC, especially now in light of the NFL early entries of A.J. Epenesa and Tristan Wirfs.

Let’s do the 2020 two deeps.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll post each position group. Today will start with quarterback. It’s maybe THE thing for 2020. It can’t be the thing it was in 2014.

The starter: Spencer Petras

 
 

The logic here is simple: Petras started last fall behind junior Peyton Mansell. After camp and before the season, Kirk Ferentz said Petras had won the backup QB spot.

That goes down as a “dub” for Petras, a big one. He’s won a rung on the ladder under the eye of this coaching staff. He’s performing the way they want him to. He was given a goal to achieve and he had it crossed off before the season.

Petras will begin his third spring practice in late February. He now has a resume with the Hawkeyes. You just haven’t read it yet.

Did No. 2 QB matter at all this year? No. Petras completed 6 of 10 and didn’t see a snap after Middle Tennessee State. There was that moment in the fourth quarter at Nebraska, when Stanley limped off the field and around the bench area, but Stanley and his 6-5, 243-pound frame avoided real injury in three years as a starter. Kind of miraculously.

Still, in that moment at Nebraska ...

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“Spencer was ready to go,” offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said. “We were going through the calls together. There was nothing that wasn’t going to be on the menu.”

That’s high praise. So, further on Petras’ development ...

“It’s like we talked about with Nate, the hardest thing about playing quarterback here is the pressure that’s put on you to execute the entire offense and the amount of control you have doing it,” Brian Ferentz said. “I think the development you’ve seen with Spencer over two years, he’s starting to get to that mastery of the system. He can improvise and ad-lib a little bit and that’s really what you’re looking for.”

Next QB in

This is really just throwing darts. We don’t have to be coy about Peyton Mansell and a potential transfer.

Yes, the logic to Mansell’s transfer (announced Jan. 8) was sound and loud and clear. The 6-2, 208-pound Texan was the oldest of the remaining group, going into his junior year. He had a little different skill set. This spring would’ve been his first chance to play at Iowa with an opening at his position. Now, it’ll be Abilene Christian, an FCS program in Texas.

As with the Hawkeyes who choose the NFL, players have to do what’s best for them and sometimes that’s transferring.

I’m picking redshirt freshman Alex Padilla for QB2 in 2020. He’s in a good spot for growth. He’s only a freshman and so there’s more time for a return on investment. Kirk Ferentz talked him up last spring as a true freshman going through his first college drills. In the open practice appearance, Padilla showed accuracy and patience in the pocket. There’s not a lot to go on, but Mansell’s departure put him in a good position.

Iowa does have highly regarded incoming freshman Deuce Hogan. He’s 6-4, 205 pounds and a Rivals 4 star. He’s going to need some downloading, but also don’t underestimate what a highly regarded and recruited Texas prep QB might already know. Hogan is going to come in drilled and skilled. He’ll have the QB training and verbiage. That’s Texas prep football.

 

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It’s too bad we have no way of tracking the No. 2 QB race. I believe it shines a light on the preparedness of the program and how deeply the training for QB1 goes in Iowa’s offense.

“I think it’s a really difficult position to play,” Brian Ferentz said in reference to a question about some of the trials and tribulations of Stanley’s three years. “I think it’s a difficult position to play anywhere. I think it’s a really difficult position to play at the University of Iowa.

“The most popular person on the team is always going to be the backup quarterback.”

What he said.

First-year starting QBs under Kirk Ferentz

2001 — Kyle McCann 167 of 252 for 2,028 yards, 66.3 percent completions, 16 TDs, 11 INTs, 146.09 efficiency (McCann was a part-time starter in 1999-2000, but we’re skipping ahead to when the Hawkeyes had representative Iowa teams.)

2002 — Brad Banks 170 of 294 for 2,575 yards, 57.8 percent completions, 26 TDs, 5 INTs, 157.12 efficiency

2003 — Nathan Chandler 165 of 307 for 2,040 yards, 53.7 percent completions, 18 TDs, 10 INTs, 122.40 efficiency

2004 — Drew Tate 233 of 375 for 2,786 yards, 62.1 percent completions, 20 TDs, 14 INTs, 134.67 efficiency

2007 — Jake Christensen 198 of 370 for 2,269 yards, 53.5 percent completions, 17 TDs, 6 INTs, 116.94 efficiency

2008 — Ricky Stanzi 150 of 254 for 1,956 yards, 59.1 percent completions, 14 TDs, 9 INTs, 134.35 efficiency

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2011 — James Vandenberg 237 of 404 for 3,022 yards, 58.7 percent completions, 25 TDs, 7 INTs, 138.44 efficiency

2013 — Jake Rudock 204 of 346 for 2,383 yards, 59 percent completions, 18 TDs, 13 INTs, 126.47 efficiency

2015 — C.J. Beathard 223 of 362 for 2,809 yards, 61.6, 17 TDs, 5 INTs, 139.52 efficiency

2017 — Nate Stanley 196 of 351 for 2,437 yards, 55.8, 26 TDs, 6 INTs, 135.18 efficiency

And now first-year starters ranked*

1. Drew Tate — Big Ten co-champion without a running game.

2. Brad Banks — Big Ten co-champion with a running game.

3. C.J. Beathard — Undefeated regular season, Big Ten title game appearance.

4. Nate Stanley — 2017 was the 15th best season in Iowa history. And it was from out of nowhere.

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5. Ricky Stanzi — Won games, ultra leader. He threw four pick-6s.

6. James Vandenberg — His 2011 remains the best statistical season by an Iowa QB under Ferentz. Career undone by a coordinator change.

7. Kyle McCann — He crawled through a “Shawshank Redemption” sewage pipe for an Alamo Bowl.

8. Jake Rudock — 2013 was a defense-first team. Good QB, just not CJB.

9. Nathan Chandler — Iowa ran the option look with a 6-7, 260-pound QB. He had a hitch in his delivery, but quarterbacked 10 victories.

10. Jake Christensen — He was sacked 46 times in 2007. Fran Tarkenton wouldn’t have been able to work with that.

*Everyone can order this however they want. I would like to hear from you on this. Maybe I’m full of it. I don’t know.

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

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