Game Slowing Down for Peyton Mansell

April 19, 2019

Written by Rob Howe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Peyton Mansell understands the importance of this spring’s practices. He’s auditioning for his future.

Iowa is reducing the reps of starting quarterback Nate Stanley. After two seasons of leading the offense, he knows what he’s doing.

Barring an injury resulting in a redshirt, 2019 is it for Stanley. The Hawkeyes already are looking for his replacement.

The coaches are giving extra practice time to his backups. Mansell, a redshirt sophomore, and redshirt freshman Spencer Petras are seeing the most time. True freshman Alex Padilla, who enrolled in January, receives the leftovers.

They’re not only looking for Stanley’s backup for the fall. The foundation is being put down for who replaces him as the team’s starter in ’20.

Position coach Ken O’Keefe is being coy, saying all the backups are experiencing good and bad days. He indicates that the race could go through August training camp and beyond. In reality, he and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz are speaking more candidly behind closed doors.

Quarterbacks are smart. They realize the stakes.

“You’ve got to know the competition is there. That’s definitely one aspect of it. But at the same time, you can’t be worried about what other guys are doing. You’ve got to be worried about self improvement,” Mansell said.

Logic and history tells us that the loser of the race to replace Stanley could move on. Nic Shimonek, Cody Sokol, Jake Rudock and Tyler Wiegers all represent examples of that happening here the last six years. It’s not isolated to Iowa.

Mansell (6-2, 210) is listed as Stanley’s backup on the latest depth chart. He’s the most experienced of the backups. That said, none of them have meaningful game reps on their resume and are unlikely to get them this coming season.

Almost two years in the system has Mansell more comfortable. The game is slowing down for him.

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“It’s nice that I’m getting to the point now where it’s not as much of learning the playbook as it is of learning where things should be at a certain time. It’s nice that you don’t have to second-guess everything you’re doing. You’re just getting to go out and play,” he said.

Mansell sees the quarterback room as being close-knit. It’s a friendly competition.

All the young quarterbacks have adjusted from spread offenses in high school to Iowa’s pro-style. That’s been on-going for Mansell since he arrived on campus.

“It’s still like a foreign language to me in some aspects,” he said.

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During his prep career, Mansell estimated that he took three snaps under center. It was the first hurdle he had to clear in college.

An ability to run sets Mansell apart from the other quarterbacks. That’s evidenced by 1,134 yards and 15 touchdowns rushing during his senior season at Belton (TX) High.

“I’m not really looking to run out of the gate. I’m always looking for somebody downfield but I don’t think I’m the most un-athletic quarterback in the QB room. I’ve always been real comfortable using my legs,” he said.

Mansell was recruited by former offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Greg Davis, who retired before Mansell’s first season here. As a result, he arrived into a different system than what he thought he was getting as a prospect.

“I had a good relationship with coach Davis, but I also think I have a good relationship with coach Brian (Ferentz). He really pushes me to be the best that I can be. He doesn’t take anything less,” Mansell said.

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Mansell’s recruitment included drama. He was part of the “Texas Pipeline” that included running back Eno Benjamin, and receivers Gavin Holmes and Beau Corrales. The others backed out of their verbal commitments and ended up elsewhere.

Benjamin’s story created the most controversy. He claimed former Iowa assistants Chris White and Bobby Kennedy were dishonest with him.

Mansell admits that the whole ordeal shook him up. It’s not something you expect to experience as a high school senior and he’s reminded of it when he talks with Corrales and Benjamin every few weeks.

“I learned really quick that nobody is every tied down to a spot, especially with coaches. Coaches can come and go whenever they want. Players come and go. We’ve had a bunch of guys transfer in and out,” Mansell said.

“It taught me not to get too attached, and expect that people are going to come and go.”

Mansell doesn’t want to go. He wants to be the guy following Stanley. Petras and Padilla are striving for the same thing.

“It’s definitely a competition and everyone in that room sees it that way. We’re really good friends, but at the end of the day, there can only be one QB on the field,” Mansell said.

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