Iowa’s Spencer Petras enters fall football camp confident. here’s why

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IOWA CITY — Iowa’s fifth-year senior quarterback Spencer Petras smiled Tuesday about two top college programs from his home state of California joining the Big Ten Conference.

Absolutely, the analytical caller said, it was good for the Big Ten and good for California to have USC and UCLA come on board in 2024 — a year after Petras’ maximum eligibility expired. But he also laughed as he imagined one of those teams coming to Champaign, Illinois on a blustery afternoon in late November.

“Yeah, 40 mph winds, I can’t feel your hands,” he said. “The ball is soaked.”

On the other hand, the climate of Los Angeles is close to ideal all year round.

“The best part is, if you’re a Big Ten West team, you have to pray for a few road games in Los Angeles in November,” Petras said. “You couldn’t ask for (anything) better; because they have no fans. It’s not like it’s going to be too loud or a harsh environment.


(Remember, Petras is a guy from Northern California – a fan of the San Francisco Giants from San Rafael. We’re talking about SoCal programs here, one of which was beaten by Iowa, 49-24, in of the 2019 Holiday Bowl.)

“It’s vulgar. They have fans,” he said, playfully chiding himself for his humorous dig. “But it’s not the same as here. And a 60 or 70 time degrees (for Iowa players) in November would be pretty cool.

This little exchange reveals a window into Petras’ loose mentality as he prepares for a pressured Hawkeye football season.

Petras looks as comfortable as he’s ever been as the Hawkeyes’ No. 1 quarterback. Yes, he’s still number 1 after spring ball and will be number 1 when fall camp opens on August 3, in less than three weeks.

And he is confident.

Petras certainly got a mental boost from a recent invite to the prestigious Manning Passing Academy, where he not only rubbed shoulders with and enjoyed fancy dinners with Super Bowl-winning legends, but went viral on Twitter. A video post showed Petras throwing a practice pass that traveled 70 yards in the air and landed perfectly in the hands of his receiver in the opposite end zone.

During the four-day camp in late June, Eli and Peyton Manning offered practice points. Peyton detailed his connections in Iowa with the Indianapolis Colts, such as Tom Moore, Jim Caldwell, Dallas Clark and Bob Sanders. Archie Manning informed Petras that he had previously performed for Hayden Fry at the Hula Bowl. Petras recorded “five or six pages” of notes and picked out the Mannings’ brains.

“(Purdue quarterback) Aidan O’Connell and I were hanging out at dinner one night, and we were talking about a certain team in the Big Ten, their defense,” Petras said. “And we called Eli, and it was great. We would ask him questions every chance we got. At the same time, you try not to bother them.

“Yeah, that was cool.”

Of course, Petras understands that part of the Iowa fanbase rolls their eyes, even when he does something impressive or positive. He knows that until the Hawkeyes consistently prove themselves as an offense — they ranked 121st out of 130 FBS teams a year ago — he will have plenty of detractors.

In that sense, he and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz are tied at the hip for the 2022 season. It looks like Petras and Ferentz aren’t just under scrutiny this fall, they’ve also received votes of confidence from the head coach. 24-year-old Kirk Ferentz. Petras doesn’t appear to be in danger of losing his No. 1 job to Alex Padilla or Joe Labas, and Brian Ferentz has added quarterbacks coaching responsibility to his offseason duties following the departure of Ken O’ Keefe…even though he never played or coached the position.

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Brian Ferentz explains how he attacks his new role as Iowa QB coach

The first question Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz asked Wednesday was about his new position group responsibility.

Chad Leistikow, Hawk Central

If you know what to look for, it’s clear Petras even picked up some of his offensive coordinator’s phrasing and mannerisms. They have been working diligently for the upcoming season. Petras has been spending more time with his private trainer in New Jersey, Tony Racioppi.

“We always try to make our parts as schematic as possible. What I like the most is that we’re much more detailed now,” Petras said. “I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re very detailed now. I feel like I have a really good plan for every play, and that excites me as an analytical guy, as a guy who can identify cover really quickly.

“Brian has been working hard, trying to break it all down. I’m really happy with where he looks now. The real test will be training camp and getting a feel for it all. Getting the reps I need. Obviously, I gotta go do it in season.

Of course, the success of Iowa’s 2022 season isn’t entirely dependent on Petras’ throwing ability or Brian Ferentz’s call-to-play/design. There will be challenges as a young offensive line (perhaps with four sophomore starters) tries to gel. A small receiver group (with the departures of Tyrone Tracy Jr. and Charlie Jones to Purdue) doesn’t help.

But by the sounds of it, Petras – in his first media interviews since a bullish session in late March – is heading into his biggest season yet physically and mentally. Even the most skeptical Iowa fans should rejoice.

“I was really happy with the spring ball. I felt like I was more decisive than I’ve ever been. I felt good about the way I threw the ball,” Petras said “Some of the changes we’ve made, I feel really good. I’m excited to see how this will reflect on the camp.

Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow covered the sport for 27 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.

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