IOWA CITY, Iowa — The last time fans and media saw Iowa’s passing game in motion, it looked like a frog trapped inside a shoe.
At Iowa’s spring game, receivers couldn’t get open and quarterbacks cemented Jake Gervase as the team’s starting free safety by throwing the junior three interceptions. If someone thought the passing game spent the Outback Bowl in the outhouse, well, in the spring it fell in headfirst.
Iowa’s open practice Saturday at Kinnick Stadium was different. Iowa’s passing attack looked representative. There were completions, good reads and open receivers. There also were pass break-ups and underthrown passes. But the negative impression that one had leaving Kinnick in the spring dissipated into the rubber filament spread throughout the new FieldTurf.
Sophomore quarterback Nathan Stanley at times looked sharp and had the better day. Early in the practice, Stanley’s play-action fake to running back Akrum Wadley fooled the defense and he hit fellow sophomore Devonte Young down the field for a 53-yard score. Stanley connected on another touchdown pass to Young where he pump-faked and delivered a drop-in-the-bucket 21-yard strike just past cornerback Manny Rugamba.
On his final touchdown, Stanley saw the blitz in his face and fired to the right flat to receiver Max Cooper for a 4-yard score.
Junior QB Tyler Wiegers had his moments, and finished 7 of 13 for 65 yards. But practice belonged to Stanley, who completed 13-of-25 passes for 163 yards. His actions and performance suggested he should be the guy moving forward.
Whether Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz got that impression or not is undetermined. Ferentz remains committed to the open competition between the quarterbacks. He referred to the other practices as verification that Wiegers has bested Stanley a few times as well.
“This is one exposure out of 12, so we’re trying to measure the whole body of work,” Ferentz said. “Again, both guys have done some really good things and both guys have done some things that they’d like to change. But that’s what you expect. They’re both gaining ground, but they’re like our team. They have things they have to do to get better.”
Neither quarterback has a resume that gives one an advantage. Wiegers threw 4 passes in 2015 as the primary backup to C.J. Beathard. Last year, Stanley won the No. 2 job by beating out Wiegers and threw 9 passes. But that was with a different quarterback coach and offensive coordinator.
Iowa’s offensive staff chose this offseason to open up the competition and not anoint Stanley the starter. Each quarterback has a different personality trait, which could provide a reason for why this decision is difficult.
Wiegers, who enters his fourth year on campus, projects maturity and verbalizes confidence. Stanley, who enters his second fall at Iowa, is more reserved and quiet. Wiegers appears the more natural leader at a position where leadership is a primary tenet.
“We are really proud of both of them,” Iowa running back Akrum Wadley said. “Just the amount of work they’ve put in. Like I always say, Tyler Wiegers, he’s more verbal. They’re both leaders. Tyler more and they’re both competing. they’re like neck-and-neck now.
“Stanley is a good guy. He doesn’t say too much unless it’s time for him to direct people. That’s a good thing. He’s a quarterback, he’s a leader. He shouldn’t talk. Everybody’s got their own thing, their own personality.”
There’s no need for Stanley to act unnaturally, unless he fails to command the huddle. Tight end Noah Fant said that’s not an issue.
“There’s no way to distinguish which one does it better,” Fant said.
As for Ferentz, he wants leadership skills to come organically.
“It’s like anything that you do: You’d like to do it within your personality,” Ferentz said. “But somehow you’ve got to have command, too. You’ve got to be in charge. Everybody’s got different personalities, different ways of doing that. I think Tyler has a little bit more comfort. He’s been on campus longer than Nate. But at the end of the day, we’re going to make the judgment on who we think can move the team. That’s really what it gets down to.”
On the football field, nothing amplifies leadership like production and nothing installs confidence more t han victories. If Stanley produces in practices and wins games, the strong and silent approach will work just fine for the Hawkeyes this fall.
The post Iowa quarterback derby has a leader emerging after Nathan Stanley’s solid Saturday production appeared first on Land of 10.
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