Iowa football to face former Penn State quarterback Will Levis in Citrus Bowl

Iowa will see a familiar opponent in former Penn State quarterback Will Levis, who is now the starting QB at Kentucky.


Caitie McMekin/News Sentinel / U

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis (7) hurdles Tennessee defense for a first down during an SEC football game between the Tennessee Volunteers and the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky. on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. Caitiebestsports2021 3

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

The Iowa football team will take on Kentucky for the first time in program history in this year’s Citrus Bowl. But it won’t be the Hawkeyes’ first time seeing Wildcat quarterback Will Levis.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz recruited the class of 2018 quarterback — the same recruiting class as current Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras — out of Connecticut before Levis eventually committed to start his college career at Penn State.

“We were the first Power Five school to offer him,” Ferentz said. “We offered him a couple of Junes ago. He came to camp. He was a guy our quarterback coach, Ken O’Keefe, really liked. He came out, came to camp. There was no question in our mind he was going to be a good college football player.

“Unfortunately, another school came in that was a little more prestigious than us a couple weeks later. That was the end of that relationship. We did get to see him a little bit. Will is a tremendous football player. He’s done a great job. I hadn’t seen film but just followed and read articles and that type of thing. I know he’s done a great job for Kentucky. I’m not surprised. He’s a first-class young man.”

Levis started playing organized football in his freshman year at Xavier High School in Connecticut, as the private school he attended through eighth grade did not offer football. Ahead of his senior season of high school, Levis ended up with six Power Five offers from Syracuse, Florida State, Ole Miss, North Carolina, Penn State, and Iowa.

“I don’t know if I’d be here right now if that hadn’t happened,” Levis told of the offer from Iowa. “They were right at the top of my list until the very end. I had to make a choice between them and Penn State, those were my final two picks. I went with Penn State, but Iowa’s a great place. I loved it and have all the respect in the world for coach Ferentz.”

Penn State offered Levis on July 15, 2017, and he committed to the Nittany Lions the same day.

Levis was a Nittany Lion for three seasons. He redshirted his first season in 2018 and played behind Penn State QB Sean Clifford in 2019 and 2020.

While at Penn State, he appeared in 15 games with two starts when the Nittany Lions ran a two-quarterback offense. Levis saw ample time on the field against the Hawkeyes in Iowa’s 41-21 victory over Penn State in the 2020 season.

Levis went 13-of-16 for 106 yards against the Hawkeyes in 2020. He also accumulated 34 rushing yards, leading the Nittany Lions in that game.

Levis entered the transfer portal at the conclusion of the 2020 season to look for an opportunity to be a full-time starter. He found one at Kentucky. Levis has thrown for 2,593 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first season with the Wildcats, while leading Kentucky to a 9-3 record.

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Iowa junior defensive back Dane Belton said Levis is known for being a running quarterback. Levis had 473 rushing yards and six touchdowns in two seasons at Penn State.

Levis has 387 rushing yards and nine touchdowns through his first 12 games at Kentucky.

“He was a tough guy,” Belton said. “They used him in the run game a lot. Little scheme plays and things like that. We’ll have to be ready for that. He commands the offense well. He can toss the ball around a little bit. He runs and has an extra blocker. We’ll have to be physical, like we pride ourselves on, and just go from there. I feel like we might incorporate a lot of things that we did against him at Penn State. Also, he has a new coordinator, so we’ll have to do some new things as well. Overall, he’s a great player.”

Iowa ranks 13th in the country in rush defense, allowing an average of 113.8 yards per game. Levis’ season-high in rushing yards as a Wildcat is 113 yards, a feat he accomplished against Louisville on Nov. 27.

Levis and the Wildcats will take on the Hawkeyes on Jan. 1 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

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