IOWA CITY – Six practices into fall camp and four Saturdays away from its season-opening game against Wyoming, the Iowa football team remains a little rough around the edges.
That’s to be expected.
The Hawkeyes’ areas of need are mostly on what coach Kirk Ferentz labels the perimeter, in the secondary on defense and at receiver, tight end and quarterback on offense.
“Every time you start a new season, you have new challenges, new opportunities,’’ said Ferentz, preparing for his 19th season as Iowa’s head coach. “It’s a different equation every year and the trick is to put it all together.’’
That remains a work in progress, particularly behind center where sophomore Nathan Stanley and junior Tyler Wiegers continue to battle for the opportunity to replace C.J. Beathard as the Hawkeyes’ starter.
“We’re making each other better,’’ Stanley said. “We’re close friends competing for the same thing, but in doing that we are moving each other forward.’’
Wiegers sees that, too.
“I think we’ve both gotten better and we worked hard this summer and I feel like things went well,’’ Wiegers said. “We came back to camp ready to go. We’ve both been working at it. It’s a good competition for both of us.’’
Ferentz said Saturday during the Hawkeyes’ media day that it remains an ongoing competition as well.
Both continue to split reps with the first-team offense and ultimately, Ferentz said coaches believe Iowa can be successful with either quarterback.
“They’ve made strides since last spring, certainly, and they have improved in the last couple days as well,’’ Ferentz said.
Quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe said the pair have had their ups and downs during the first week of fall camp.
“That’s normal. One will look good one day, the other the next. This past week was a little like spring in that we were starting up again, working to get back in the routine and that leads to a little inconsistency,’’ O’Keefe said.
“History tells me that we can probably expect the same for about another week. I don’t think we’re going to see one guy separate this next week. I’d be surprised by that.’’
O’Keefe helped the Hawkeyes break in Brad Banks, Nathan Chandler, Drew Tate, Ricky Stanzi and James Vandenberg as successful first-year starters during his previous tenure as Iowa’s offensive coordinator.
As was the case then, every statistic is being documented. Every completion percentage, quarterback rating number, throw times, plusses, minuses, they’re all being charted.
They will all be discussed, reviewed, reviewed again and ultimately will factor into a decision.
“You can’t rush it, though,’’ O’Keefe said. “As much as you would like me to stand here today and say this is the guy, I can’t say that because we aren’t at that point yet. That’s the reality of it.’’
First-year offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz doesn’t expect or want to be in a position where Iowa would platoon two quarterbacks and let a final decision play out on the field once the season starts.
“What we want is what is best for the team and I’ve never been around a situation where a two-quarterback rotation of some sort was best for the team,’’ he said.
He believes that Iowa’s current situation at quarterback isn’t necessarily a bad one.
“We have two guys working hard, two guys who their teammates believe in and two guys who are capable of leading our football team. That’s a good thing,’’ Brian Ferentz said. “The tough thing is that only one of them can start and I still believe that will sort itself out on the field.’’
O’Keefe believes that as well.
“It always does,’’ he said. “Sometimes, it just takes a little longer than other times to get to that point. Sometimes, it isn’t decided until after the season has started.’’
Stanley and Wiegers are willing participants.
A year ago as a true freshman, the 6-foot-5, 212-pound Stanley completed 5-of-9 passes for 62 yards. Wiegers didn’t play last fall, but did complete 3-of-4 passes for 32 yards as Iowa’s back-up in 2015.
Both said they have benefited from O’Keefe’s knowledge and experience, providing them with tips that are helping them grow as quarterbacks.
“All we can do right now is keep working to be consistent,’’ Wiegers said. “That’s the main thing. Every day, you want to be as consistent as you can.’’
Stanley said ultimately, that will likely be the difference maker.
“The consistency is the big thing that I think we’re both working toward,’’ he said. “All we can do every day is show up ready to work and try to put our best out there with every snap we get.’’
They aren’t alone.
As the second week of camp begins, the Hawkeyes continue to seek answers at receiver, where Matt VandeBerg has enjoyed a good opening week of camp in his return from two foot surgeries.
He has 106 career catches on his resume, the extent of experience at Iowa for current Hawkeye receivers.
“The group is working hard, making progress,’’ receivers coach Kelton Copeland said. “It’s a daily thing, trying to take one, two steps forward and eventually, it will work.’’
Junior-college transfer Nick Easley currently joins VandeBerg on the top of the depth chart, but one week into camp Copeland has been pleased with the progress Adrian Falconer has made since spring and he the potential he sees in a collection of four true freshmen.
“We’re going to need some help from them and they came in ready to compete,’’ Copeland said.
On defense, Kirk Ferentz said the Hawkeyes will also likely need help from at least a couple of the four true freshmen Iowa brought in at cornerback.
“There’s been a lot written and said about our youth at the receiver position, but I would say that’s who we are on the back end (on defense), too,’’ Ferentz said.
“We’re just really young on the perimeter right now. Young, inexperienced, that is us at the corners, at safety and at receiver. Quarterback, too. That’s our team in a nutshell right now.’’