IOWA CITY, Iowa – Probably to the surprise of few, one of Iowa’s two freshmen quarterbacks has switched positions.
What might be a surprise, though, is who switched.
Ryan Boyle worked out with the receivers during Saturday’s open practice at Kinnick Stadium, which concluded spring drills.
The former West Des Moines Dowling star quarterback agreed to the switch in hopes of getting on the field sooner.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said after Saturday’s scrimmage that the switch isn’t necessarily permanent. But for now, the 6-foot-1, 208-pound Boyle is a receiver who also might contribute on special teams.
That would leave Drew Cook as the only quarterback on scholarship from the 2015 recruiting class.
“It just made sense, that’s kind of what initiated the thoughts on special teams,” Ferentz said of Boyle switching positions. “Ryan is a good football player and a good athlete and a tough, competitive guy.
“Our special teams are going to have to be improved and we have got work to do there, as well. We thought that would be an opportunity. I think he kind of liked the idea of maybe catching a couple balls.”
Ferentz said the decision to move Boyle to receiver was more a case of wanting to get Boyle on the field sooner than Cook having moved ahead of Boyle on the depth chart.
Boyle and Cook have been listed as even on the depth chart since they both joined the team last summer.
There was speculation that the 6-5, 230-pound Cook might eventually switch positions because of his size and athleticism, but also because his father, Marv Cook, was a consensus all-America tight end for the Hawkeyes.
Cook directed the No. 2 offense on Saturday and showed flashes of his potential. He completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to walk-on receiver Connor Keane, along with showing good scrambling ability from the pocket.
Cook saw extensive action on Saturday with starting quarterback C.J. Beathard out with a bruised shoulder.
“You know, he made some bad decisions, but made some good ones, too, and showed some signs,” Ferentz said of Cook, who led Iowa City Regina to back-to-back Class 1A state titles as junior and senior. “He’s a really intriguing guy.
“From the first time we saw him, which I think was after his tenth-grade year, when he was a really skinny kid. He keeps growing and has a lot of upside. So we really like him.”
Ferentz said Boyle didn’t resist when the idea of switching to receiver was presented to him.
“I think he just wants to get on the field and compete, and that’s one thing that jumps out about him when you watched him as a high school player,” Ferentz said of Boyle, who led Dowling to back-to-back Class 4A state titles as a junior and senior. “He’s just a tough, competitive guy. You know, players like that, it’s good to have those guys on your football team.
“Yeah, I think he may help in our offense and see where it goes and we certainly have — there are openings on the receiver position, as well. If he can help us make a contribution there, that would be a great thing.”
Neither Cook nor Boyle were made available to the media after Saturday’s scrimmage. But they both have made a strong impression in practice.
Senior receiver Matt VandeBerg said he wasn’t surprised that Boyle switched to receiver.
“No, his athleticism at quarterback was one thing,” VandeBerg said. “So to get him out in open space and actually run and catch and move his body, I think that will benefit us.”
Boyle has used VandeBerg’s experience to help learn more about the receiver position. VandeBerg led Iowa with 65 catches for 703 yards last season.
“He’s asked quite a few questions,’ VandeBerg said. “But as you saw, his athleticism, sometimes, can speak for itself when it comes to making plays down the field. He’s got a lot of potential.”
Boyle showed his speed on Saturday when he caught a short pass over the middle and then raced down field for a substantial gain.
Cook also showed his athleticism by avoiding the rush and scrambling from the pocket. He ran for 15 yards on one scramble before being shoved out of bounds.
“He was running all over our defense today,” VandeBerg said of Cook. “He’s moving along big time.”