IOWA CITY, Iowa — The completion percentage improved. The passes were more on target. Quarterback Nate Stanley thought the passing game took a step forward during the last 15 practices.
It just wasn’t necessarily on display throughout the spring game, especially with the starting offense.
It wasn’t a perfect day for the offense as the third-string unit was the only one to find the end zone, but it didn’t seem to dampen Stanley’s mood about the spring.
“(The passing game) is going to keep on growing as we continue to work this summer and in fall camp,” Stanley said. “We are going to come to work and continue to get better each and every day.”
Stanley liked the progress the passing game made in March and April. There just wasn’t a highlight-worthy toss to sum up the growth from Friday.
In fact, the starting offense struggled holding onto the football. Stanley was intercepted twice and tight end T.J. Hockenson lost a fumble.
Safety Amani Hooker was involved in all three plays. He picked off a pass Stanley threw across the entire field and followed it up by tipping a pass that fell into the hands of safety Jake Gervase.
“Obviously, there are some throws I want back,” Stanley said. “Some tipped balls I would like to throw a little bit differently.”
A subpar spring game likely won’t raise a red flag with Iowa’s returning starting quarterback. Coach Kirk Ferentz liked teammates selecting Stanley as a team captain before spring started and quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe appreciated how Stanley’s understanding of the offense improved this offseason.
For Stanley, his biggest focus was on improving his 55.8 percent completion mark.
“Throughout the spring overall that’s something I’ve continued to improve on,” Stanley said. “It’s something that’s not perfect. Obviously, want to continue to build on that.”
Iowa’s best quarterback performances came from its backups. Redshirt freshman Peyton Mansell was the first replacement and was the team’s most consistent quarterback throughout the scrimmage.
He completed 8 of his first 9 passes and moved the ball downfield, but never found the end zone. He showed some mobility, moving the chains with his feet when no one was open.
Coach Kirk Ferentz said Mansell’s play was a good representation of his performance in the spring and a huge jump forward from his play last fall.
“When he really started struggling, it was really interesting, sometimes entertaining,” Ferentz said. “It was entertaining because he was the fourth team at that point. It wouldn’t be right now. He has really progressed. He is a lot closer to being able to go into a game than he was.”
Freshman Spencer Petras didn’t overwhelm, but he took the plays that were in front of him. Petras, who enrolled early for the spring semester, showed his arm strength, but failed to complete a deep pass.
Ferentz exited spring happy with his team’s progress, liking what he saw in the other 14 practices. Petras’ play ensures the quarterback competition will continue into preseason camp.
“Petras has kind of surprised us a little bit,” Ferentz said. “He has caught on to things a little quicker than you might imagine. So we’ll see what happens there. Those guys have done some good things.”