IOWA CITY, Iowa — Kirk Ferentz can hammer home a point as well as a union carpenter. In his introductory spring football press conference, he was clear and concise when addressing Iowa’s quarterback position.
“We’re not sure who that is going to be right now,” the Hawkeyes coach said. “We’ll let the guys compete at that position.”
It’s an open contest. Ferentz kept reiterating that stance when asked about the position group on Monday. It’s true, but Nathan Stanley is the clear favorite to succeed C.J. Beathard and start the Sept. 2 season opener against Wyoming.
Why? Stanley’s performance and the actions of Ferentz and the offensive staff have indicated as much. Stanley impressed in preseason camp last year, leapfrogging the rest of the quarterback room to be Beathard’s primary backup.
His command of the offense and decision-making helped him become the No. 2 signal-caller. He threw only nine passes as a true freshman, but the Hawkeyes didn’t view it as a wasted season. Stanley was never going to see the field unless a game was a blowout or Beathard couldn’t play.
Iowa liked the situation. The coaches believed Stanley gained more experience and is in a better position to compete for the starting spot after receiving first- and second-team reps last season. If he had redshirted, Stanley would have worked with the scout team, where preparing the defense is the top priority. Surviving the pass rush from the defensive line isn’t far behind.
As the backup, there was a focus on his development.
“He’s actually getting coached,” Ferentz said. “He’s in the system. Again, names and some of the terminology will be different (in new offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s system), but it’s still football, making reads, that type of thing.
“It’s better to be on the end of the first and second offense, certainly, if you’re a quarterback. Any position, for that matter.”
Still, Ferentz calls it an open competition, and that’s the right call. Anyone can claim the job. No one expected Stanley to win the backup job last August. If sophomore Drew Cook is the best quarterback he’ll end up starting.
Stanley’s primary competition, though, will come from junior Tyler Wiegers. He’s second-string to open the spring. He threw four passes in 2015.
This is an inexperienced group; there wasn’t much game film for new quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe to critique. He’s going to judge his quarterbacks on their play going forward.
“That is what we have spring ball for, and we’ll find out a lot more about each other once that baby gets rolling,” said O’Keefe in February.
Stanley won’t be given the job, but his past indicates that he’s the frontrunner. It will be a surprise if anyone else inherits QB1 status.