IOWA CITY, Iowa – The world of college quarterbacks changed during Ken O’Keefe’s five years in the NFL. Iowa’s position coach has been adjusting to the new dynamics since returning from the Miami Dolphins last offseason.
High school signal callers are committing to programs earlier in the process. Then, if they don’t see a path to playing time, end up transferring at a much higher rate than when he served as the Hawkeyes offensive coordinator from 1999-2011.
“It is different and it is hard,” he said during a Tuesday press conference here at the Iowa Football performance center.
“There are a lot of voices out there and with the rule changes that allow people to move if you’ve got your degree, which I think is a fair rule. They have opportunity to go somewhere and play the game that they love. It’s a win for everybody in the end.”
Iowa watched two veteran quarterbacks move on during this offseason as graduate transfers, allowing them to play right away at their new schools. Tyler Wiegers, a fifth-year senior, landed at Eastern Michigan. Ryan Boyle hasn’t decided where he’ll be after graduating next month.
That left the Hawkeyes with returning starter Nate Stanley, a true junior, redshirt freshman Peyton Mansell and true freshman Spencer Petras as the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. Petras enrolled in January, halfway through his senior year of high school.
O’Keefe expects this setup to be more of the norm moving forward. Like Boyle, guys can graduate in three years and transfer if they’re blocked from the starting position. They don’t need to sit on the bench waiting as an injury replacement.
For colleges, it increases the importance on recruiting a quality signal caller in every class. Iowa thinks it’s found that in Petras.
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The Northern California quarterback didn’t commit to the Hawkeyes until late in the process. Last summer, he committed to Oregon State, which changed coaches.
Iowa spent time earlier in the cycle trying to land quarterbacks like Will Levis and Jace Ruder. They ended up at Penn State and North Carolina, respectively.
“We had some opportunities early on where we made some offers and it didn’t work out,” O’Keefe said.
Instead of scrambling, the Hawkeyes waited until after the season to find a signal caller. O’Keefe went to watch three quarterbacks – Petras, Matthew Baldwin (Ohio State) and Zachary Wilson (BYU) – in person and offered them all.
“Nobody pushed the panic button. We just kept looking for who we thought would be the right fit. It just worked out that Spencer was,” O’Keefe said.
“He’s got a tremendous personality. You love him as a kid. He’s got an ability to learn the game that I think is pretty special and has worked extremely hard to do that since he’s been here. He’s got a pretty good knack for feeling things on the field as well. We’re glad he’s here.”
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O’Keefe was complimentary of the development of all three quarterbacks.
He said Stanley is making decisions at a must faster clip than a year ago. Mansell is much more comfortable in the offense after spending the summer and fall getting acclimated.
Watch more of O’Keefe’s comments on his guys, recruiting the position and more in this HN TV video: