Freshman QBs passing rookie exams with Hawkeyes

Andy Hamilton
Iowa freshman quarterbacks Ryan Boyle (11) and Drew Cook (18) stretch during practice on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2015.   David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

LOS ANGELES – Ryan Boyle and Drew Cook are getting another shot at acting this week with Hollywood serving as a backdrop to Iowa’s final football game of the season.

For the state championship-winning quarterbacks, their first year with the Hawkeyes has been a continual audition that wraps up with the ultimate final exam.

To this point, Boyle and Cook have mainly been playing the part of the opposition’s quarterback while working on Iowa’s scout team. At times, that means scrambling around and keeping plays alive as a dual-threat quarterback. Other instances, it means setting up in the pocket and looking for open receivers downfield.

The true test of their development with the Hawkeyes, though, won’t come this week when they imitate Stanford’s Kevin Hogan in preparation for the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. It’ll come during the spring when they operate Iowa’s offense.

“With all the redshirts but especially quarterbacks, you can either really have a good redshirt year or you can have a bad redshirt year,” Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. “And by that I mean not them personally, but all of a sudden when spring training starts, it becomes really obvious that this guy had a great redshirt year or he had a bad redshirt year from a mental standpoint.

“Are you starting over like you did in August? Are you able to pick up (the offense) with those guys? My sense is both of them had a really good redshirt year, that they really studied what was happening throughout the year. And one of the things that (Iowa coach) Kirk (Ferentz) has done is they travel to every ballgame. So not only do they travel to every ballgame, they sit in on every game plan meeting. They sit right there and halftime when we’re going to (make adjustments). … My sense is they’ve both had a really good year.”

That comes as little surprise to those who watched Boyle and Cook tear up the Iowa high school level the past two seasons. Boyle led Dowling Catholic to two straight Class 4A titles while Cook held the controls for an Iowa City Regina squad that claimed state championships in each of his four seasons with the Regals.

In their final two seasons, both quarterbacks won 27 games and lost one.

But college football presented both freshmen with a new system and new responsibilities.

“Going through camp, it was a completely different offense from high school,” Boyle said. “Now, what are we? Fourteen weeks through the season, I’d say it’s a lot easier. There are still things, as a freshman, that I’ve yet to grasp, but coach Davis and the other quarterbacks are helping me along the way to become a better player.”

Said Cook: “It’s been a great experience. It’s been a learning experience. Transitioning to high school to college, I don’t think my transition could have gone any better. I’ve had a fun time, a good time and I hope to keep learning.”

Boyle had a brief cameo working with the No. 2 offense behind Tyler Wiegers during the middle of the season when starter C.J. Beathard dealt with injuries. It gave him an opportunity to showcase his skills in Iowa’s offense and also gave him a deeper appreciation for the junior starter.

“C.J. is the man,” Boyle said. “He’s a complete warrior.”

Beathard said he’s been impressed by what he’s seen from the freshmen this season.

“They’re good players,” he said. “I remember when I was in their shoes. Things are going 100 mph in your head because the way we run our offense puts a lot on the quarterback, whether it be making checks, getting into plays and seeing stuff as a quarterback. So their minds when they’re at camp, they’re going 100 mph. They’ve gotten better and continue to improve throughout the season, but they’re still learning and I’m trying to help them any way I can.”