Iowa football notebook | Hawkeyes kick off spring practice

Head coach Kirk Ferentz addressed Iowa’s quarterback competition, coaching staff changes, and more during his first press conference of the spring football season.


Grace Smith

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz talks with Iowa fullback Turner Pallissard before a football game between No. 19 Iowa and Northwestern at Ryan Field in Evanston, Illinois, on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 17-12.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

About 25 minutes into Kirk Ferentz’s first press conference of spring football on Wednesday, the 24th-year Iowa head coach heard the first question of the day regarding his team’s quarterbacks.

“Don’t have any answers regarding that,” Ferentz quipped. “That’s what we’re out [practicing].”

For a team that returns three of its quarterbacks from last season, when the Hawkeyes won 10 games and the Big Ten West title, Iowa still has plenty of questions to answer regarding its signal callers. Senior Spencer Petras is listed as Iowa’s starter under center on a two-deep the Hawkeyes released on Monday. Redshirt junior Alex Padilla is listed as the backup, while redshirt freshman Joey Labas is on the depth chart as the third-string quarterback.

Ferentz said the first depth chart of the spring doesn’t mean much, though.

“This is a real opportunity for those guys to start showcasing what they can do,” Ferentz said. “And as I told them, we’re not making any decisions this week, certainly not today or this week. And really it’s an ongoing process. I told our players it doesn’t really mean anything, doesn’t really mean anything until September. It will be a fluid process. We’ll be interested in seeing who does what and what they do with the opportunities in front of them.”

Petras has started 19 games in his two seasons as a starter for Iowa, including the Big Ten Championship Game and Citrus Bowl last season. Padilla started three games in 2021. Petras completed 57.3 percent of his passes last season and threw 10 touchdowns compared to nine interceptions. Padilla’s completion percentage in his more limited snaps was 49.1 percent and he threw two touchdowns and two picks.

Labas has not appeared in a game for the Hawkeyes.

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Iowa’s offense ranked 121st out of 130 FBS teams’ last season. The Hawkeyes ranked 99th in the nation in points per game and 109th in passing offense.

When asked if the starting job was Petras’ to lose, Ferentz said — like every other spot on the roster — Iowa has an open competition at quarterback.

“Everybody’s competing right now,” Ferentz said. “And on one hand, [Petras] has an edge or things he does better than Alex. But I can flip it around saying there’s things that Alex can do a bit better, too. We’ll ride it out, see where it all goes. But we’ll get it figured out. And the good news is both guys are totally capable.”

Kirk Ferentz not concerned about Brian Ferentz coaching quarterbacks

When quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe stepped down in February to assume an off-the-field role, Kirk Ferentz’s initial thoughts were not to bring an outside hire to coach Iowa’s signal callers. Rather, he thought it would be wise to have his son and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz absorb QB coach responsibilities and make an outside hire to take over coaching tight ends.

“Personally, I think if he can get that situation, it’s better,” Kirk Ferentz said. “And Brian is more than capable of doing that job. And he knows our offense better than anybody, quite frankly. I think it’s going to be a good, positive move for us.”

RELATED: Iowa football program hires Abdul Hodge as tight ends coach, moves Brian Ferentz to quarterbacks role

Kirk Ferentz said he is not concerned about Brian Ferentz, who is entering his sixth year as Iowa’s offensive coordinator, having never coached quarterbacks before.

The elder Ferentz recalled that when former Hawkeye head coach Hayden Fry hired him to be Iowa’s offensive line coach ahead of the 1981 season, he didn’t have much knowledge of that position group.

On Wednesday, he drew a parallel between that and Brian Ferentz’s current situation.

“You learn things,” Kirk Ferentz said of coaching a new position. “You study things. You visit with people who really are experts. And that’s how you learn. That’s how you grow. And he’ll make mistakes just like I’ll make mistakes every day, he’ll make them, too, but I’m pretty sure he’ll try to fix them, and that’s the biggest thing that we’ll have.”

With Brian Ferentz coaching quarterbacks, Iowa brought former three-time All-Big Ten Hawkeye linebacker Abdul Hodge back to Iowa City as tight ends coach.

The former team captain has spent the last three years as outside linebackers coach and NFL liaison at South Dakota. Kirk Ferentz said Hodge had been on “his list” for a while and was watching the former Hawkeyes’ career in case a coaching spot on his staff ever opened.

However, Hodge wasn’t the first name he thought of for the tight ends coaching vacancy because of Hodge’s familiarity with the defensive side of the ball.

That changed when he brought Hodge in for an interview.

“Maybe the most pleasing thing throughout the process … was not only his willingness to consider coaching offense, but really his eagerness,” Ferentz said. “And he was excited about it and gave me the right answer. I don’t know if it was an answer just to give [to get the job] but I think he was being genuine. He sees it as a chance to grow and improve his vision of the game, which I think is smart. It’s good to have experience on both sides of the football.”

Roster updates at the start of spring ball

Offensive lineman Cody Ince and tight end Elijah Yelverton are no longer members of the Iowa football program, the team announced on Tuesday.

Yelverton, a reserve player, approached Iowa’s coaching staff before spring break and said he was going to finish the semester at Iowa and then finish his degree somewhere in his home state of Texas, Ferentz said on Wednesday. Ince, who saw significant playing time at guard over his career despite battling several injuries, decided to forgo his fifth year at Iowa and will graduate with an engineering degree in May.

“Whether it’s these two guys or anybody that leaves our program, we certainly wish them the best moving forward,” Ferentz said. “And they’re taking advantage of a new start as well. Wish them the best.”

In other roster news, Logan Jones has moved from defensive line to offensive line (center), and Mike Timm has moved from linebacker to fullback.