Just Who is Going to be the Quarterback?
By Ben Colin
Iowa City – Nothing is more intriguing heading towards fall practice than a quarterback competition. It captivates not only fans but the entire college football discussion up until the first snap.
These battles emerge, in most cases, after an established quarterback graduates or declares they’re becoming a professional. That is exactly the case in Iowa City as CJ Beathard is now a San Francisco 49er and won’t be under center at Kinnick again.
Now Iowa is in the midst of a tight quarterback competition between sophomore Nathan Stanley and junior Tyler Wiegers.
The battle isn’t exclusive. Two other young Hawkeyes, or future Hawkeyes, could end up under center on day one. Freshman Ryan Boyle took some snaps during the annual spring game after switching back from wide receiver. Incoming freshman Peyton Mansell arrives from Texas with a chance to fight for the top spot on the depth chart.
Following the spring game, coach Kirk Ferentz wasn’t overly confident in how the quarterbacks had played. If gameday was tomorrow they’d have their work cut out for them.
“We’d probably do a coin toss,” Ferentz said. “Luckily we’re going to have at least 15 practices before we make that decision. We’ll have to make it somewhere in camp.”
Obviously the decision will be made in camp but that doesn’t mean the road to that point won’t be interesting. Ferentz, on the other hand, believes it will all work itself out once camp begins. Only one can start in September.
Breaking down which quarterback is the next big thing is a top priority once camp comes in August.
Ferentz thinks both are better now than they were at last seasons end.
The leading option, as of the spring game, is Wiegers. He stepped on the field first that night. Performance wise, the difference between he and Stanley is minimal, especially since on that particular day Wiegers threw two interceptions.
The Michigan native saw action his freshman year but none last year while Stanley filled the role whenever Beathard went down. Wiegers found his opportunity two years ago, late in blowout games during Iowa’s undefeated season. Beathard was sidelined much for injury that year.
Evaluating Wiegers has been difficult, he hasn’t been on the field often. His spring game performance left more to be desired, which will have to come in camp. On his side though, he is a 6’4” quarterback who sat behind a third round draft pick for two years.
Quarterback coach Ken O’Keefe named confidence as the method Wiegers used to move back into discussion after it seemed clear Stanley was the guy.
“His intelligence picked up the system, and then he has confidence in himself. I think that was critical,” O’Keefe said.
Stanley, on the other hand, captivated the fans during a short two plays in the loss to North Dakota State a year ago. With just two pass plays he moved 45 yards to keep the Hawkeyes in the game. The more critical element being the life he brought to the field.
His confidence, and ability to play with reckless abandon in the few opportunities he received, excited a fanbase that has been used to pocket passing only quarterbacks. Stanley has the potential, as did Beathard, to draw in the fans with exciting and slightly risky play. It worked two years ago.
Regardless of how the future quarterback plays they are at the mercy of the running backs and wide receivers. Stanley or Wiegers will only be as good as the receivers they are throwing to and the running backs that are carrying the load.
Matt Vandeberg returns but Jerminic Smith is gone. The receivers play determines the light the quarterbacks are shown in. Last season, Beathard was criticized but in reality it was the lack of talent at wide receiver that dropped his numbers. For both quarterbacks this year to succeed, it is critical that they have more productivity out of the receivers.
The outlook though isn’t bright. During the spring game everyone from receivers to the highly touted tight ends dropped passes. Previewing how the quarterback position looks for the year to come completely relies on whether or not passes are caught.
In all position discussion is a wildcard that could steal the show. In Iowa’s case, that player is incoming freshman Peyton Mansell. The Belton, Texas native arrives this summer for camp and has as much of a chance to play as anyone.
Starting a true freshman quarterback has become less of an anomaly in recent years. Last year true freshman started at four major power-five schools. Georgia’s Jacob Eason, Florida State’s Deondre Francois and Shane Buechele at Texas all started immediately. That list also includes Alabama starter Jalen Hurts who led his team of the College Football Playoff Championship Game.
It likely won’t be until day one against Wyoming that the quarterback competition is complete. Truthfully, it is going to get much more interesting before the wraps up in the fall.