IOWA CITY, Iowa — It was hard to find a flaw with Matt Quarells upon first glance. He took the field for the Kids’ Day practice Aug. 12 and showed his 4.5 speed and playmaking ability during throws with the quarterbacks.
But there was one problem.
Quarells wasn’t in pads. So the New Mexico graduate transfer couldn’t take part in a key scrimmage later in practice. NCAA issues with his transfer forced Quarells to miss nearly the first two weeks of camp.
If he is to contribute in the season opener, Quarells needs to take a play from running back Akrum Wadley’s playbook. He must become the most efficient Hawkeye.
Wadley is known for making big plays, like this 54-yard touchdown run against Minnesota.
What often goes unnoticed with him is how effective he is at maximizing the value of each touch. He only needed 168 handoffs to top the 1,000-yard mark. Only one Big Ten rusher, Maryland’s Ty Johnson, needed fewer touches to do so.
Wadley averaged at least 6 yards per carry the last two seasons. He moves the ball in chunks and makes the most of his chances.
Effective and efficient, it’s Wadley’s game. It needs to become Quarells’, too.
The NCAA reviewing Quarells’ files — coach Kirk Ferentz joked Congress and the Supreme Court needed to look at it — took away his most valuable commodity. Quarells couldn’t get on the field and show what he could do until Aug. 11.
Yes, he will be a Hawkeye for two years. He has next year, but wide receiver is open now. Playing time is available, but to carve out a role in the offense, Quarells needs to show how he will contribute. It’s hard to do on the sideline.
Missing time gives Quarells fewer chances in practice to make the 50-yard touchdown reception or a 15-yard catch over the middle that moves the chains.
He is almost like a third-team quarterback in a team session. There are less reps than he wants so he can’t waste one. He needs to showcase his skill set every time.
“Obviously athletic receiver,” tight end Noah Fant said. “He can catch the ball pretty well. He runs good routes. Looking forward to him coming with us in the season and seeing what he can do.”
The concern with Quarells isn’t picking up the offense. He took the Doogie Howser path in college and took less time get an undergraduate degree than some need for an MBA. His brain will help him adjust quickly.
“He graduated in three years,” wide receiver Matt VandeBerg said. “He’s going to have his nose in a playbook and figure it out from there.”
The question is when. Iowa can use a vertical receiving threat. Quarells fits the bill. The sooner the better for everyone involved.
“If he can help us in September good,” Ferentz said. “If it’s October great. Hopefully at some point he’ll be able to help our football team.”
If Quarells channels Wadley, September is in play. Otherwise, the second half of the season is a safe bet to see him make an impact.