Iowa Football

Iowa's Spencer Petras might just be the only starting QB who also is a big 'Deadhead'

His Northern California roots have made him a fan of legendary rock group Grateful Dead

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) passes to running back Tyler Goodson (15) in the fourth quarter of their NC
Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) passes to running back Tyler Goodson (15) in the fourth quarter of their NCAA football game against Middle Tennessee at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — If you want some things to know about new Iowa starting quarterback Spencer Petras, here you go.

He lettered four years in track and field at Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield, Calif., which is just north of the San Francisco bay area. He ran sprints and hurdles and threw the shot put, quite the interesting triple.

He also has always looked up and kind of patterned his game after Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff, a Marin grad. Petras actually broke Goff’s school records in seven categories, including single-game and season passing yardage and touchdowns.

He originally committed to Oregon State. A coaching change there put him back on the recruiting market, and Iowa won his heart.

Here’s without question the most important info nugget about Petras. He’s a ‘Deadhead.’

That’s what hard-core fans of the hall of fame rock band Grateful Dead are called. There’s no one on the team who appreciates the sublime guitar work of Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir more than him.

“I’m from San Rafael, Calif., which is where Jerry Garcia lived and passed and all that,” Petras said. “Bob Weir still lives in Mill Valley, Calif., which is probably 10 minutes from my house. They have deep roots in my county, so that has a ton to do with it.

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“I had my graduation party at (bassist) Phil Lesh’s restaurant (Terrapin Crossroads) in town back in high school. I’ve tried to get some guys on board. I know Tyler Linderbaum is a big fan, likes the studio version of ‘Casey Jones. I haven’t gotten him in too deep, though I’m working on it.”

Petras and Linderbaum, Iowa’s starting center, have been roommates for going on two years and have developed a strong relationship. Talk about your odd couple: Petras being a NoCal boy and Linderbaum from little old Solon, Iowa.

“Spencer just has a commanding personality, which is just what you’re looking for in a leader,” Linderbaum said. “He has great leadership skills. As each day goes on, he is just building up more and more confidence, which is good to see. You started to see that last year ... I think Spencer has put in a lot of work and worked hard to (get) where he is now. And now he just needs to show what he can do on the field.”

If Petras, a redshirt sophomore with just five games of mop-up duty under his belt, can do what everyone thinks he can do, Iowa could have a dynamic offense, one of the best in Ferentz’s 21-year tenure as head coach. The Hawkeyes have weapons galore.

Off the top, there are four experienced receivers who have produced in their careers. Ihmir Smith-Marsette and Brandon Smith are dangerous and speedy seniors on the outside, Nico Ragaini, a trusted slot guy who led Iowa in receptions last season. Tyrone Tracy Jr. also brings big-play ability and has familiarity with all three receiver positions.

There are three ‘dudes’ at running back in Tyler Goodson, Mekhi Sargent and Ivory Kelly-Martin. Sam LaPorta is an emerging talent at tight end, where he pairs with senior Shaun Beyer.

The offensive line has Linderbaum, good tackles/NFL hopefuls Alaric Jackson and Coy Cronk, an Indiana transfer. There is experience and depth at guard.

It’s all set up, but only if Petras can be the guy. He quickly was named Iowa’s guy in the offseason, replacing three-year starter Nate Stanley.

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“Without a guy to distribute the ball to all those guys, none of that is going to work,” said Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. “That’s all going to be contingent upon Spencer and what he can do. So far, I think he’s handled it very nicely.”

“I’m extremely lucky, I feel really grateful just to be in the same room as a lot of these guys,” Petras said. “It’s an honor to be able to go out there and play with them, and it’s my job to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. We have a great team with a lot of talented guys. It’s up to all of us, you know, but it’s up to me to execute this offense well.”

The scouting report on Petras is that he’s a tall (6-foot-5) pocket passer who can make all the throws.

Smith said Stanley probably is the better scrambler of the two, which is interesting because Stanley never was known for his mobility.

The biggest way Petras and Stanley are different is their personalities. Anyone who met and/or interviewed Stanley knows of his reserved demeanor.

Petras apparently does not share that trait.

“Spencer is like an energy ball,” Sargent said. “He’s contagious when you are around him. Guys gravitate towards him because of his leadership. That’s one thing about Spencer, he brightens up the whole room. He’s going to have a huge role bringing the team along, and I think he’s doing a pretty good job with that so far.”

“I think the biggest thing I learned from Nate is how to prepare,” Petras said. “How to prepare well to be a Big Ten quarterback. Nate was an extremely good example the two years I was able to be behind him. I have no question in my mind he showed me the right way to prepare for a game, and that’s what I’ll try my best to emulate.”

A lack of spring practice was a definite detriment for everyone here because it prevented Petras from getting much-needed reps with the first team. The season-on, season-off, season-on stuff this fall also hurt big time.

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Petras said he and his teammates did get in summer work together on an informal basis. A handful or more of skill guys took to local high-school fields multiple times a week to run routes and do their best to develop a rapport.

“So that was how we would get better,” he said. “We just tried our best to make the best out of a tough situation. We’ll have to see how it comes together on Oct. 24. I have high expectations for this offense, and our coaches do as well, and so do the players. We know how good we can be, and we’re all excited to go out there and compete.”

Iowa opens its truncated 2020 season Saturday at Purdue. You know the Boilermakers can put up points in a hurry, and, with a lot of starters needing replaced on defense, the Hawkeyes might just have to score with them.

Again, a lot of that comes down to the play of their new ‘Deadhead’ QB1.

“That’s probably one of the key coaching points for Spencer. You don’t have to win the game,” said Kirk Ferentz. “But that’s really true of a quarterback in any year. It’s always nice when you’ve got a guy who can win the game, and maybe put the team on his shoulders every now and then, and do something special. But I think, especially at the starting point of this season right now, it’s really important for Spencer to realize (it’s) just go out and play your position. We’re not counting on you to save our team or make everything happen for us ... It’s really true for everyone. Just play your position and let it go.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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