IOWA CITY, Iowa — As Tyler Wiegers began picking up the pieces after losing his backup quarterback job to Nathan Stanley last season, he did the only thing that made sense.
He took a close look at his game.
Wiegers tried to keep his routine the same, regardless if he stood at No. 2 or No. 3 on the quarterback depth chart.
Working on the little things helped him open up his big-picture goals. By thinking about self-improvement, Wiegers brought himself back into the starting quarterback conversation during the spring.
“You just got to get back to work and go work every day and focus on yourself,” Wiegers said at the end of spring practice in April.
Making it a competition
Consensus following last season went like this. Stanley had climbed over Wiegers in the quarterback pecking order, serving as the primary backup to C.J. Beathard in 2016. With Beathard heading to the NFL, Stanley was the heir apparent. The transition of power would be seamless.
It didn’t happen.
The quarterback competition is a dead heat heading into the summer. It happened, in part, because Wiegers kept pushing. He fine-tuned his fundamentals and threw himself into the new playbook when Brian Ferentz replaced Greg Davis as the offensive coordinator.
Wiegers’ offseason work stood out to new quarterback coach Ken O’Keefe.
“He has a lot of confidence,” O’Keefe said. “Like I said, intelligence picked up the system, and then his confidence in himself. I think that was critical.”
Wiegers is back in the competition — coach Kirk Ferentz has said he expects it to go through most of preseason camp — yet those in the program realize the quarterback play isn’t where it needs to be.
Neither Wiegers nor Stanley looked sharp in the two public workouts this spring, and coaches have said each signal caller needs to show growth.
Stanley was 6 of 17 for 13 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception in the spring game. Wiegers completed 12 of 23 attempts for 99 yards and 2 interceptions.
“They’re both doing some good things,” Kirk Ferentz said after the spring game. “They’re both competing well. My guess is they’re both going to improve a lot coming out of this 15-day practice session. So what they can do now between now and the start of preseason camp — they have a chance to really advance and improve, go back, look at the tapes from the entire spring, and then hopefully we’ll see a jump here when we get going in August.
Wiegers said his summer to-do list is long, highlighting his need to work on commanding the huddle.
“There is room for improvement,” Wiegers said, “but I think we are all moving forward in that area [and we got] a lot better throughout the spring ball.”
Improvement will be a key phrase for Iowa quarterbacks leading up to the season. Neither one has experience. They have combined to throw 13 career passes.
Another will be separation. That’s what the coaching staff must see to determine who replaces Beathard.
Wiegers said he doesn’t know how to describe the current quarterback situation. He said he would rather analyze his game than the depth chart.
“I don’t really have a word for it,” Wiegers said. “We are all coming out here trying to improve every day. We are all feeding off each other trying to get better and improve with the team.”
Thinking about the next task got him this far. He’ll stick with it, hoping it moves him into the starting quarterback job, a role that seemed out of reach eight months ago.