IOWA CITY — Flip a coin.
That’s where the race for the Iowa starting quarterback’s job stands as the Hawkeyes wrapped up spring practices Friday night at Kinnick Stadium.
Junior Tyler Wiegers and sophomore Nathan Stanley will continue their battle to replace C.J. Beathard behind center when Iowa opens its fall camp later this summer.
Both will spend the summer working with Hawkeye receivers and running backs, trying to develop the cohesion it takes to move an offense that remains a work zone as it adjusts to new nomenclature and new schemes.
Beginning his 19th season at Iowa, coach Kirk Ferentz has seen it all play out before and he’s ready to let this competition run its natural course.
“One of two things is going to happen,’’ Ferentz said following a Friday spring game dominated by defense. “One guy is going to pull away quickly (in camp), or it’s going to be back and forth, and we’ll figure something out from there.’’
History has taught him that at every position, these situations tend to work themselves out. Ideally, he would like to settle on a starter 15-to-18 practices into fall camp.
“At some point, we’re going to have to have a winner,’’ Ferentz said.
Wiegers and Stanley are working to make that decision as difficult as possible.
The pair have worked together since last fall, when Stanley nudged his way past Wiegers on the depth chart onto the second line as Beathard’s backup a season after Wiegers filled that role.
That was then.
This is now.
Iowa is running a new offensive system. The Hawkeyes have a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterbacks coach.
The job is also open.
“There is a lot of motivation this spring,’’ Stanley said. “We’re good friends who are competing for the same thing. We’re doing what we can to get better, learn the offense and put the coaches in a situation where they have to make a hard choice.’’
Wiegers said his focus since arriving at Iowa remains unchanged.
“You do what you can to find a way to improve every day. It may be a little thing, but do something better today than you did yesterday,’’ Wiegers said. “That’s always been my goal. I don’t get caught up in the depth chart. I just focus on improving.’’
Both showed a need for continued improvement on Friday.
Wiegers took the initial snaps with the starting unit. Stanley followed and both saw three quarters of action before reserves Ryan Boyle and Ryan Schmidt worked the fourth quarter.
Wiegers completed 12-of-18 passes for 104 yards.
Stanley endured a 6-of-15 passing performance that covered 16 yards.
Both threw interceptions, Wiegers a pair and Stanley one. Both were sacked and missed opportunities for bigger plays in a passing game that struggled with the absence of two of its top returning components, Matt VandeBerg and Jerminic Smith.
Stanley did complete the game’s only touchdown pass on a two-yard screen play to Devonte Young midway through the opening quarter. That completed a nine-yard scoring drive that free safety Jake Gervase set up with the first of his three interceptions.
Only tight end T.J. Hockenson, with four catches covering 12 yards, caught more passes that Gervase did in his role as an attention-grabbing foil to Iowa’s quarterback derby.
Ferentz said both quarterbacks have had better days and indicated that the offense in general had shown glimpses of more consistency than it performed with once the lights went on at Kinnick and an estimated crowd of 16,500 looked on.
“The cohesiveness, the timing, it hasn’t been there all spring, frankly,’’ Ferentz said. “At times, it has been there. This past week actually looked a little better up until tonight. We’re not that far off. We’ll get that. I think we’ll get that cleaned up as we move on.’’
The two players lining up behind center are counting on that.
“The competition is good for both of us,’’ Stanley said. “It raises everyone’s level and if you’re a competitor, you have to welcome it and take in on. That’s part of it. You have to want to get better and then you have to do that.’’
Wiegers understands that as well.
“We’re still working to help each other and push each other to be better because we know that is going to help the team,’’ Wiegers said. “That’s where things start for both of us. We want what is best for the team. That starts with making sure that we’re getting better in everything we do.’’
That leaves Wiegers, the 6-foot-4, 225-pounder from Lake Orion, Michigan, and Stanley, the 6-5, 235-pound native of Menomonie, Wisconsin, in the same position they were 15 practices ago when Iowa started spring drills.
Both have taken steps forward. Both find themselves with plenty of additional steps to take before Wyoming arrives at Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 2 for the season opener
Senior running back Akrum Wadley, being withheld from contact work this spring, has had a chance to watch both progress over the past month.
“They’re both great leaders for the team,’’ Wadley said. “They’ve both competed. I feel like either one of them can lead this team. They both have great arms. It’s going to be something to watch.’’