PODCAST: Analyzing Iowa football's quarterback options for bowl game and beyond
Tuesday's news of Iowa second-string quarterback Alex Padilla entering the NCAA transfer portal was not a huge surprise, but it was a decision that churns some unexpected wheels in motion.
Because of the apparent right-shoulder injury to starter Spencer Petras suffered in the first quarter against Nebraska last week, the Hawkeyes' QB situation isn't clear.
Behind the scenes, key figures are staying mum on Petras' status. Officially, Iowa is saying there is "no health update" on Petras. Head coach Kirk Ferentz will be made available Sunday after the Hawkeyes learn their bowl destination. At that point, he might tell us Petras is fine and good to go. He might say Petras is definitely out. Or he may be genuinely uncertain about the status of the QB position.
Interestingly, this was a big question ahead of last year's Citrus Bowl game, too. Petras got knocked out of the Big Ten Championship Game with internal injuries, and it was uncertain whether he or Padilla would start against Kentucky. Ultimately after recovering and returning to practice about a week before the game, Petras got the nod and went the distance in that 20-17 loss.
But if Petras can't go, the presumed starter would then be redshirt freshman Joe Labas, who has never taken a college snap. Labas is a 6-foot-4, 207-pound quarterback from the Cleveland area. Hawkeye teammates have said Labas was a dazzling scout-team player as a true freshman, but offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has since indicated that Labas was a distant third in the QB race to Petras and Padilla.
“Joe continues to do a good job, but the simple answer to that is he has not yet closed the gap on (Petras and Padilla)," Brian Ferentz said in October. "But (it) doesn't discourage you from continuing to work with him, and hope that you get there."
If Petras is sidelined for part or all of bowl preparations, Labas would at least be in line for No. 1 quarterback reps in December, which would at minimum be a positive for his development going into 2023. Labas would give Iowa a different element at that position; he has the most mobility of any quarterback on the team.
“Long story short, I’m a dual-threat quarterback,” Labas said at Iowa's media day in August. “I can run when I need to. Instinctual, too. I like to think I’m instinctual. Without even thinking, just knowing what to do when the bullets are flying.”
The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster is true freshman Carson May, who has been running Iowa's scout team this season. May (6-4, 221) arrived in June and did not get any snaps during the Hawkeyes' Kids Day at Kinnick scrimmage in August. He would not be a viable option for starting this bowl game, but December will be his first good opportunity to impress coaches as they size up QB options for 2023, as well.
During this week's Hawk Central radio show, the Register's Chad Leistikow and Kennington Smith discussed the quarterback dynamics that Padilla's decision created, the possibility of Petras returning for a sixth season, and the importance of bringing in a transfer option like Michigan's Cade McNamara.
For a direct link to the podcast, click here.