IOWA CITY, Iowa — When anyone came to watch Spencer Petras, they always told his coach the same two things.
The first was about his size. Petras stands 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, but it’s a little deceptive.
“You don’t realize how big he is until you are standing next to him or he’s standing next to somebody,” Marin Catholic (Calif.) football coach Mazi Moayed said.
The second was his arm. It’s stronger than current NFL starter Jared Goff’s was when he started for Moayed.
“When he is out there playing or warming up, the ball just explodes out of his hand,” Moayed said. “There is a wow factor to it, absolutely.”
There is a lot to like there, but what didn’t other programs see? How was Petras, a 4-star Rivals prospect, still available to commit to Iowa less than a week before the early signing period starts?
It was a combination of luck, perfect timing by Iowa and late development by the player.
— Spencer Petras (@spencerpetras) December 15, 2017
Finding his first home
Petras was solid as a junior. His size and his arm strength were his best assets as he threw for 3,036 yards, 33 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.
But Moayed is quick to point out that film isn’t as consistent as his senior-year highlights. His accuracy, footwork and decision-making were in need of some fine-tuning.
“He did a good job there,” Moayed said, “but he is three notches above where he was last year.”
It didn’t stop offers from coming in. Syracuse and Louisville offered in April. So did Cal. Oregon State extended an offer in May, and Moayed said nearly the entire Mountain West Conference did, too.
The Beavers and their coaching staff always stood out. So on May 29 he committed.
“I visited about two weeks ago, and Corvallis is a special place,” Petras told The Oregonian in May. “And the coaching staff, especially [former coach Gary] Andersen and [former quarterbacks coach Kevin] McGiven, was special. Everything was special about it, and I couldn’t be more excited to join the family.”
With his college decision out of the way, Petras threw himself into his craft. He focused on improving his accuracy.
His left elbow was a problem. He kept it locked out when he threw. “My mechanics were bad, but that can allow for inconsistencies because the angle of my elbow dictated the angle I threw at,” Petras said.
He knew a consistent release angle would help him throw it where he wanted more often. By the spring, keeping his elbow in felt like second nature.
This season, his completion percentage skyrocketed. He went from completing 56.3 percent of his passes as a junior to 63.6 percent as a senior.
His improvement wasn’t limited to short passes. Petras improved his touch downfield and wasn’t afraid to show it off. His senior-year Hudl highlight tape is almost 11 consecutive minutes of him chucking the ball to receivers on vertical routes.
“He will get it there,” Moayed said. “You see that on film sometimes. He sees the play we call is either covered, not there or he doesn’t like it, and he’s able to come back, our guys keep running, and he reaches them.”
Iowa enters his recruitment
Everything came together for nearly a perfect season. He threw for 4,157 yards, 50 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.
His breakout season wasn’t accompanied by additional offers. Not at first. Petras stayed true to his Oregon State commitment until Andersen resigned in early October.
He then decided to re-evaluate his situation. Other programs, such as Iowa, soon started reaching out. Florida State inquired about Petras before coach Jimbo Fisher left for Texas A&M.
Petras didn’t know much about Iowa at first. The more research he did, the more he came around on the Hawkeyes. He liked the stability of coach Kirk Ferentz and Ferentz’s reputation.
Iowa quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe visited and offered Petras on Dec. 6. He took an official visit four days later.
Petras told Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune that he was sticking with the Beavers on Tuesday.
But he walked away impressed with Iowa. He liked the culture around the team and the all-in mentality the coaches described as vital to a player’s success at Iowa.
He didn’t want to make a rash decision and let his emotions get the best of him. After praying for a few days and realizing his thoughts on Iowa weren’t fading, he committed on Thursday night.
“I needed a little bit of time to let everything settle down, and my original feelings were keeping with me so I decided to pull the trigger,” Petras said.
Iowa found its quarterback six days before the early signing period starts and a month before Petras arrives on campus. Soon enough, the Hawkeyes will have their chance to see if his size and arm really are the first things they notice.
Moayed is certain they will.
“It’s always the same with Spencer,” he said.