Leistikow: Wiegers vs. Stanley 'a coin toss' until August
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Thankfully for the Iowa football team, it’s late April and not early September.
But if it were, and Kirk Ferentz had to choose a starting quarterback?
“Oh, man,” the 19th-year Iowa head coach said, genuinely thinking for a moment about the answer. “We’d be in trouble, period. … We’d probably do a coin toss — literally do a coin toss.
“Luckily, we’re going to have at least 15-18 practices before we make a decision.”
That answer should tell you part of where the Tyler Wiegers vs. Nathan Stanley battle stood exiting Friday night’s spring game in front of an announced crowd of 16,500 fans at Kinnick Stadium.
It’s close, and it’s far from over.
They’ll go back at it in August.
“One of two things is going to happen,” Ferentz said. “One guy is going to pull away quickly (in fall camp), or it’s going to be back and forth, and we’ll figure something out from there. Those things have a tendency to work themselves out.
"At some point, we’re going to have to have a winner."
Safety Jake Gervase caught more passes, with his three interceptions of Iowa’s top two quarterbacks, than every Hawkeye offensive player except tight end T.J. Hockenson (four catches, 15 yards).
Wiegers, a redshirt junior playing in his third spring game, started slowly but finished strong.
Stanley, a true sophomore playing in his first, looked sharper early than late.
Neither player’s unofficial stat line would probably be impressive enough to beat Penn State when Iowa opens Big Ten play here five months from now.
Wiegers wound up 11-of-19 for 94 yards and two interceptions; Stanley was 6-for-16 for 17 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown pass to Devonte Young and an interception.
“Our timing wasn't great tonight in certain areas,” Ferentz said. “It's hard; we're not really cohesive right now offensively, and it's not a big surprise. But I think they're both doing some good things. They're both competing well.”
This is not the time to panic.
In fact, both guys — despite the numbers — did some encouraging things as they shared reps with the first and second units.
Stanley showed the stronger arm of the two. Although his accuracy was lacking, he had a confident zip on his passes. His best throw of the night, a third-quarter deep ball, hit receiver Adrian Falconer in the hands — but Falconer dropped what would have been about a 45-yard gain.
Wiegers showed better accuracy and performed better on third downs. He had a crisp 14-yard completion to Noah Fant on an early third-and-4, and later found Jon Wisnieski for a 16-yard strike over the middle.
Talking to the combatants afterward, it seems like the most uncontroversial quarterback controversy you could imagine.
“We’re great friends,” Stanley said. “We’re just trying to help each other get better right now.”
Wiegers held no hard feelings after he was leap-frogged by Stanley — then a true freshman — for the No. 2 spot behind C.J. Beathard (who was in attendance Friday as he awaits next week’s NFL Draft).
“You’ve just got to move forward,” Wiegers said of essentially being demoted from No. 2 in 2015 to No. 3 in 2016. “Focus on yourself, improve every day, focus on the little things.”
Each got to play nine full possessions. Each led their offense to a short-field touchdown. Each took sacks. Each missed seeing wide-open receivers; they will see them later on film.
There were a lot of legitimate excuses for Friday's pass-game choppiness.
One, the receiving corps was a shell of what it could and should be in September. There was no Matt VandeBerg (injured foot); he'll be ready to roll this summer.
It’s still unclear whether suspended Jerminic Smith will be back as he works through academic issues. (“We'll just let his actions speak,” Ferentz said.)
And a slew of true freshmen will arrive in June.
The bigger issue, though, that everyone cited: The timing and terminology that’s involved in new offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz’s offense.
“The cohesiveness, the timing, it hasn't been there all spring, quite frankly,” Ferentz said. “At times, it's been there. This past week, actually, looked a little bit better up until tonight.
“But we're not that far off, and we'll get that. I think we'll get that cleaned up as we move on.”
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 22 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.