FOOTBALL

Iowa football: You have to trust the process, never mind that you have zero idea of what it is

The quarterback race is a race, but they won't tell you that and so, yeah, trust the process

I haven’t written anything about the scrimmage-y deal last weekend at Kinnick.

I wasn’t there and I don’t want to cheat off anyone’s paper. I hope everyone has filled their bellies with good info. You can extrapolate too much out of one incompletion or fumble or missed tackle or whatever you want to dwell on, but at the end of the month, spring practice will be over and you’ll be left dreaming until August. You thought I was going to say “Sept. 4 against Indiana,” but there will be August scrimmages and there will be info that can be picked from those.

In 2013, there were two August scrimmages with one happening at night. I can’t remember if Jake Rudock was named starter that night, but he heard something good from coaches after practice. He had a smile that wouldn’t come off. He was kind of coy. The media group picked up on the positive vibe. It felt like he was named starter that night.

How much of a race was Rudock and C.J. Beathard in 2013? That’s the hard part. We have no idea. We had no idea then and won’t in 2021 with Spencer Petras, Alex Padilla and Deuce Hogan.

Specifics are asked for, trust me. There’s nothing to gain for the team to open up that discussion. Some of this is “secret sauce” stuff. Football has that baked in and we all have to deal with the news blackout by … making things up in our heads, of course. (It’s way too nice out to spend time refreshing a messageboard.)

“Trust the process” has been making the rounds in football for years. I want to say Nick Saban started it. Iowa State has adopted it. Let’s look at it as literally as we can as outsiders.

— If Petras is going to be a secure No. 1 in 2021, he’s going to need to prove it in practice. Over and over and over and over again. That is the process. Those reps that are forgotten before the offense is back in the huddle, that’s the process. Just because we can’t witness it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Trying, failing, learning. Again, again and again.

During our last Hawkeyepodcast podcast, I pumped up Hawkeyenation’s Rob Howe and what he does with video during the open scrimmages. (Here’s the link, check that stuff out. As Brian Ferentz would remind us, it’s not good tape, you can’t teach off of it, but we’re desperate and heading into the Horse Latitudes. I tried this in 2019 and couldn’t get the video off of my phone. There was no more growth in skills to be had for me.)

Rob posted video packages for each QB. Perspective: In a super-small sample size, I really liked sophomore Alex Padilla. Ball placement was terrific. Of course, TE Sam LaPorta is a big dude with a monster catch radius, but still, Padilla threaded.

I’m not going to name him king of Iowa football. What I really do like about this highlight package is the coaches called plays for him to make in front of everyone. BF called seam routes to LaPorta and an end zone fade to … I couldn’t quite make that number out. Plays were called for Padilla to flash some skills (had to feel good for the kid whose only Iowa football experience in front of anyone was the 2019 spring game and two pass attempts last season).

So, extrapolate that. What does that look like in practice? The backup QBs likely are given chances to make plays in front of the whole team. When they do, enthusiasm ensues.

How does this affect the depth chart? Well, QB1 is at these practices, too. He sees the performance and feels the pressure to beat it.

And if he doesn’t, the team sees it and starts asking itself questions. This is what happened in 2014. Beathard showed enough to get the team thinking. The team and probably the coaches. KF wasn’t having QB talk in the middle of 2014. He’d get the question on the radio show every week and really just spit in the question’s face like someone asked him something extremely personal. There was defensiveness, which is natural and, in Iowa 2014, really only ended up clogging the sink. The move would eventually be made, but only after the Rudocks were totally burned in Jacksonville (The HawkSlayer Bowl).

There’s more spring practice. There will be a full fall camp this year (I’ve always considered August the most important month of KF’s version of Iowa football).

There’s pressure to perform every day. It’s up to everyone to stay in the race.

— The messaging seems really clear. I asked KF once at a Big Ten media days about practice and playing the best players. He said, you can’t fool your team. It will know if you’re gaming a situation to make a player look good.

That’s sound logic, IMO.

KF after last weekend’s practice: “I said it three weeks ago, and I probably feel the same about it right now — Spencer still has a real advantage from experience and he’s done a nice job. After that, it’s wide open.”

Petras is No. 1, Padilla is second and Hogan is third. It doesn’t mean it will stay that way, but it might.

Let’s just cut to the chase here: There’s a chance Padilla is more accurate than Petras, whose biggest competition will be against Petras 2020. I really think a lot of you complaining vigorously about Petras hold 2020 against him and have condemned him for it.

You guys know it doesn’t work that way, but, man, you’re still pissed about 2020 and can’t let it go. That guy can’t do it! Can’t the coaches see that?

I just can’t hold 2020 against Petras. Football is a game of variables and 2020 was the game of variables against a world-class chess player. I can’t remember where I read this so apologies and feel free to call me out and I will provide a link in the next post, but if Petras lost 1,000 reps, he was an Iowa QB who lost 1,000 reps. That’s debilitating, especially when you consider how generally flightless Iowa’s offense is. I don’t think we’ve fully seen Petras. We all saw some things that made us nervous, but we’re never going to see a season like 2020 again. I hope. It was not the sum of what Petras is as a QB (FWIW, Stanley was 10th in the B1G in 2017 with a 55.8 completion percentage).

You’re going to have doubts. The coaches have doubts. That’s why there’s practice. And don’t with the “We talkin’ about practice” bullshit. This is the process of figuring out who can do it and football isn’t basketball. I mean, right?

Do we know who can do it? Not yet. When will we find out? Competition begins Sept. 4 and we’ll all find out together.

Until then, to the process. May it be fruitful and revealing and full of sweaty moments of truth that would be fun for us to see, but football is a construction zone and so …

Put in Padilla.

Kidding, kidding.

Marc Morehouse

22 years as the Iowa football beat writer for the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Holy bleep, that's a long damn time. Now, I'm a podcaster/writer/pop cult guru at Hawkeyepodcast.com. Yes, I wrote "guru," but I didn't mean it in a pretentious way. Sincere thanks for reading, listening and hopping on board!

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