Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Alex Padilla (8) practices with Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Spencer Petras (7) during warm-ups before the game against Illinois at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday November 20, 2021 (Savannah Blake / The Gazette)
IOWA CITY – Some Iowa quarterbacks have done better in class than others.
Drawn Tate? “He’d rather have a ball in his hand than a pen,” said Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.
“I’ll let you draw your own conclusions,” Ferentz said with a subtle smile.
Alex Padilla? This is an other story.
“He’s a smart guy,” said running back Tyler Goodson. “It shows on the football field, and it shows on the football field when I just hang out around it.”
Padilla, her roommate Goodson said, “has a lot of power in her mind upstairs.”
That intelligence has helped Padilla, a neuroscience major, take the reins of Iowa’s pro-style offense that places a lot of responsibility on the smooth quarterback midway through the season.
“Normal major college football is so simplified right now to just try and speed up the arrival of the best athlete on the field,” said Tim Jenkins, former NFL quarterback and Padilla’s private pitching coach. “Iowa is betting on their quarterback as much as the Denver Broncos are.”
Most of that extra responsibility comes after the call-in and before the snap.
Tight end Sam LaPorta said that the Iowa game calls “quite often” have two games the quarterback can choose from.
“So they go up and kill the first game, and we play the second,” LaPorta said. “You’d be surprised. Ten or 15 checks happen in every game and go unnoticed. They just happen so fast.
It’s not as if Padilla – or former starter Spencer Petras or whoever else is on quarterback – changes the game completely throughout the game.
“It’s not one of those things where they go down the line like Peyton Manning-style and they give around 40 code words,” LaPorta said. “No Omahas.”
Having a smart quarterback isn’t new to Iowa. Ferentz has consolidated Padilla’s football IQ with that of most of his starting quarterbacks in recent history.
“This piece was pretty cerebral, so yeah none of these guys surprises me,” Ferentz said.
The 23-year-old head coach has also seen cases of academic intelligence not translating into football intelligence.
“I used to joke that engineers don’t always make good football players,” Ferentz said. “Mike Elgin broke this rule.”
That being said, Ferentz realizes that Padilla’s intelligence “doesn’t hurt” when he resumes the Iowa offense.
Jenkins did point out, however, that the attribute was integral to the seamless transition from Petras to Padilla.
“That’s why he can step in and play despite not having had that many reps, and why he got it early,” Jenkins said.
Some of Padilla’s numbers in three games running the offense wouldn’t exactly be a passing score on a neuroscience test.
After making 64.3% of his passes against Northwestern, the second managed less than half of his passes in his two starts.
Against Minnesota, he made 45.8% of his shots. Against Illinois it was 35.3 percent.
Had the Iowa receivers caught the nine assists that were abandoned in Padilla’s two starts, his starting completion percentage would be 63.4. Four of the nine passes captured – some drops are inevitable – would mean 51.2. Instead, it’s 41.5.
Jenkins also argued that Padilla made low percentage, high reward throws which held back his completion rate.
“When you’re at a school like Iowa, you don’t get a lot of stats,” Jenkins said. “You don’t get the Ohio State Bubble Screen completion that often.”
Padilla only had one pitch on or behind the line of scrimmage against Illinois, although he had five against Minnesota and eight against Northwestern.
Ferentz was hesitant to openly declare Padilla as Iowa’s No.1 permanent quarterback, at least publicly.
“If we played tomorrow he would be our quarterback,” Ferentz said on Tuesday, moments before praising Petras as well.
He also didn’t reveal much after Saturday’s win over Illinois. When asked if Padilla was officially the starter to move forward, Ferentz joked, “Well, officially today he was, yes.”
Ferentz’s actions, however, leave little doubt as to the identity of the starter.
Padilla has been the starter of the weekly depth chart for the past three weeks, including two weeks when Petras was available.
Throughout the pre-match warm-ups, Padilla took all the reps of the first team, so it was clear his shyness – he didn’t even name the starting Padilla in his pre-match radio interview – was not fooling anyone.
Padilla was the guy – pen in hand studying neuroscience and ball in hand at Kinnick – last week.
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