If there is a quarterback competition at Iowa this spring, that’s fine, Spencer Petras said.
His concern, after eight games as the starter in 2020, is personal improvement.
And that, quarterbacks coach Ken O’Keefe said, is the big thing.
“He knows there aren’t any days off,” O’Keefe said Wednesday. “He knows he has to keep his foot on the gas to stay where he’s at.”
The 15 spring practices the Hawkeyes have will be important, if only because they’re back on the field this spring after not having any workouts last March and April because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Petras, who spent two seasons as a backup behind Nate Stanley, was the starter for the abbreviated eight-game schedule as the Hawkeyes went 6-2. It was clear, though, that there were plenty of adjustments he needed to make, especially with no spring and a disjointed summer.
Petras is No. 1 on the depth chart, with Alex Padilla and Deuce Hogan behind him. His focus, though, is clear.
“I’m not really worried about any competition. I’m worried more about myself,” Petras said on Tuesday. “It’s kind of silly to worry about anything except how I play, the way I do things. And yeah, that’s my focus right now.”
Petras threw for 1,569 yards last season, third-most in the Big Ten, and had nine touchdowns against five interceptions. He completed just 57.1 percent of his passes, though, a percentage that he wants to improve on this season.
The number Petras wants — 65 percent — is something he talked about with O’Keefe and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz.
And that number can improve, he said, with better choices.
Petras topped the 60 percent mark in three of his last four starts, but that can change with making the right reads.
“Taking gifts more efficiently,” Petras said. “If I have an easy completion, take it.”
Petras has been able to impress coach Kirk Ferentz.
“This guy just operates the way you want a quarterback to,” Ferentz said. “I think he’s got a wonderful opportunity to take a good step.
“There were a lot of things missing last year. And I thought he played admirably, considering those things. I know the average fans don’t take that into consideration — why would they? But they are something we’re really in tune to.”
Petras did a self-scout during the offseason, trying to find the little glitches that can be fixed. And he also studied other quarterbacks — Alabama’s Mac Jones, in particular.
“He does a really good job of getting the ball out fast, and hitting his guys in stride, letting his playmakers run to the ball,” Petras said. “Making sure the playmakers can catch the ball and run with it, and make plays.”
One year as a starter can make a difference, and O’Keefe wants to see it.
“A guy like Spencer, with a year under his belt, should be able to see the field, should be able to see what’s going on better, should be able to deliver the ball with a little bit more confidence than the previous year,” O’Keefe said. “Spencer, with only one year of experience, is pretty well-advanced, with how he works.
“The bottom line is, he’s got eight games of experience under his belt. You automatically end up with an advantage in that particular case.”
But being a starter comes with the critics, and Petras knows that from being Stanley’s backup.
“It is what it is,” Petras said. “I’ve had my fair share of experience watching Nate deal with it. Everybody has their own opinion, that’s OK.”