Iowa QB Spencer Petras fighting for job after offense underperforms

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — When a team is coming off a season in which it had one of the worst offenses in the nation, all options are open to fix it. For Iowa, that means opening the competition at quarterback.

The battle this spring is between veteran starter Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla.

Petras, who missed three games because of injury last season, has started 19 of the last 20 in which he’s appeared. Alex Padilla started three times last season.

“I think the good news is that we feel they’re both capable of playing really good football for us,” coach Kirk Ferentz said. “And our goal is to try to get them to play a little bit better and everybody around them helping a little bit more. I think, really, that’s the story of our offense right now.”

The Hawkeyes, who were 10-4 and won the Big Ten West last season, were 121st out of 130 Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense, 101st in rushing and 109th in passing.

The struggles put focus on the quarterback position, and offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz has been overseeing the competition.

“I’m focused on myself,” Petras said. “I’m focused on improving on the things that he wants me to, whether that be completion percentage, things like that. Any energy spent on anything else is a waste.”

Petras threw for 1,880 yards with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions, completing 57.3% of his passes. Padilla threw for 636 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions, and completed 49.1%.

“I think the biggest thing, looking back, is that I’m too smart of a player to not take advantage of coverage better than I did,” Petras said. “For me, with how fast I can identify coverage, or how fast I can get the ball out of my hands, if I’m getting soft coverage where there are opportunities underneath, I need to take that more. I know how to attack coverage, so my completion percentage should be higher.”

Brian Ferentz, Kirk’s son, added quarterbacks coach to his duties in the offseason after Ken O'Keefe stepped away from his on-field role and former Wisconsin quarterbacks coach Jon Budmayr was added as an offensive analyst. The younger Ferentz took over as offensive coordinator in 2017, with O’Keefe working as the quarterbacks coach.

“Over the last five years, I can’t overstate how much I learned from Ken,” Brian Ferentz said, “and how much I appreciate that.”

“When Coach O’Keefe told us the move he wanted to make, my first thoughts were I wanted Brian to take over the quarterbacks, and so I’m really happy that’s what happened,” Petras said. “If there’s two people in the building who need to be on the same page, it’s the offensive coordinator and the quarterback. I think any time there’s a degree of separation there, there’s challenges that can be presented.”

Kirk Ferentz said the move made sense.

“The guy calling the plays is coaching the quarterback directly,” the head coach said. “Personally, I think if he can get that situation, it’s better. And Brian is more than capable of doing that job. And he knows our offense better than anybody, quite frankly.”

There are other questions on the offense.

Iowa must replace All-America center Tyler Linderbaum and guard Kyler Schott. Running back Tyler Goodson, who rushed for 1,151 yards last season, left for the NFL draft and will be replaced by a tandem of Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams.

The quarterback competition is something that will go on for a while. The Hawkeyes open against South Dakota State at home on Sept. 3.

“Everybody’s competing right now,” Kirk Ferentz said. “And on one hand, (Petras has) got an edge or things he does better than Alex. But I can flip it around saying there’s things that Alex can do a bit better, too. We’ll ride it out, see where it all goes. But we’ll get it figured out. And the good news is both guys are totally capable.”

Air Force football sanctioned for recruiting violations

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AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — The Air Force football program received two years of probation from the NCAA and had its squad size reduced by 10 for four years as part of its sanctions for recruiting violations.

The penalties were announced Thursday after Air Force and four individuals reached an agreement with NCAA enforcement staff on recruiting violations. A fifth individual in the case has contested their role and will be heard by the committee on infractions.

The sanctions also include a fine and a reduction of 46 total official visits for the football program in the 2022-23 and `23-24 academic years. In addition, there’s a prohibition on unofficial visits in football from Sept. 1 through Oct. 12, 2022, and a reduced number of evaluation days this fall.

Air Force has around 115 players on its varsity roster, plus a JV team that all count as NCAA athletes and its roster size.

“The (committee) appreciates the parties’ efforts in working collaboratively together to reach agreement on the violations, levels, classifications, and significant and meaningful penalties,” Gary Miller, the chief hearing officer for the panel and president at Akron, said in a statement. “The panel also recognizes that Air Force has gone above and beyond in its overall approach to this case.”

In a joint statement, Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark and director of athletics Nathan Pine said: “The U.S. Air Force Academy is pleased that our case has progressed to the point of the NCAA accepting our negotiated resolution. We will continue working with the NCAA on this ongoing self-reported case from the COVID dead period, as it’s our responsibility to ensure integrity of the institution, athletics department, cadet-athletes and staff.”

The Falcons are off to a 3-1 start and host Navy on Saturday to begin the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy competition. The trophy is presented to the service academy with the best record in the round-robin format.

Florida shakes up secondary after dismal game at Tennessee

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida coach Billy Napier is shaking up his secondary after the Gators allowed 349 yards passing – including 247 of those on eight plays – in a loss at Tennessee.

Safety Trey Dean, a fifth-year senior who has started 32 games and played in 54, is out with what Florida is calling a “lower leg injury.” But no one would be surprised if Napier was quietly benching Dean after he made two mental errors against the Volunteers that resulted in 70- and 45-yard gains and set up touchdowns.

Freshman Kamari Wilson will replace Dean and make his first college start Sunday against Eastern Washington.

Cornerback Jaydon Hill will join Wilson in the starting lineup. Hill, a third-year sophomore, will make his first start since 2020. He missed the 2021 season with a torn knee ligament. He impressed Napier and his new staff in the spring but sat out preseason camp with another knee injury.

Hill will replace sophomore Avery Helm, who also struggled against the Vols.

“You talk about what he’s been through from an injury perspective,” Napier said following practice Wednesday. “Jaydon was one of the better players that we had on our team in spring practice. I was very impressed . It’s no surprise to me. He showed pretty quickly here that he’s very capable. I’m excited to watch him play.”

Georgia transfer Jalen Kimber, a former five-star recruit, is now listed as a third-team cornerback. Kimber played just 11 snaps in Knoxville a week after he returned an interception for a touchdown in a 31-28 win against South Florida.

“I like to say we try to eliminate the bad football,” Napier said. “Talking about mental errors, misalignments, poor communication, bad fundamentals and techniques, bad decision-making within the play. … We have a laundry list of things that we need to eliminate each week.

“Last week’s game, I thought we were really close, but there’s 12 or 15 plays in the game where Florida is beating Florida. We’ve got a smart group here. I think they’re very aware of what the issues are, and I think they’re working hard to address those issues.”