By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – This request has been made before, but needs to be made again, and that is to encourage Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz to put more emphasis on recruiting dual-threat quarterbacks, or at least, mobile quarterbacks.
The game continues to evolve to where having an immobile quarterback can put a team at a disadvantage, as was apparent during Iowa’s back-to-back losses to Michigan and Penn State by a combined 12 points in the last two games.
Iowa allowed 10 sacks in the two losses, including eight against during the 10-3 loss to Michigan, and also committed six turnovers in the two games, including four against Michigan.
The running game also struggled in both losses, and that combined with Nate Stanley’s lack of mobility at quarterback was a recipe for dysfunction.
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford by true definition isn't a dual-threat quarterback, but he is mobile enough to have gained 67 yards on the ground against Iowa, including 52 net rushing yards.
Stanley, on the other hand, finished with 12 rushing yards against Penn State, including a minus-5 net rushing yards.
The difference in rushing yards at the quarterback position was a key to Penn State winning because Clifford helped to extend drives with his legs, while Stanley didn't.
That isn’t meant as an indictment against Stanley because he will leave Iowa as a three-year starter, and as one of the most productive, durable and respected quarterbacks in program history.
The Iowa offensive line also let Stanley down in the last two games, with both run blocking and with pass protection.
But Stanley also rarely leaves the pocket as a 6-foot-4, 243-pound pro-style quarterback, and that can be a problem when the offensive line struggles to protect and when the running game sputters.
With a dual-threat quarterback, it’s almost like having a 12th man on offense when the play breaks down. A defense can do exactly what it’s supposed to do in order to shut down a play, but that still doesn’t stop a dual-threat quarterback from improvising.
Iowa fans should remember how frustrating and maddening it was to watch former Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El, former Iowa State quarterback Seneca Wallace and former Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa make key first downs by scrambling from a collapsing pocket, or by making defenders miss in space.
Iowa struck gold with Brad Banks, whose dual-threat skills at quarterback, helped turn a good team in 2002 into a great team. His ability to run and pass made the Iowa offense in 2002 extremely difficult to defend as Banks would go on to finish runner-up for the Heisman Trophy that season.
But as great as Banks was as a Hawkeye, he couldn’t beat Iowa State, and that was largely due to Wallace’s impact as a dual-threat quarterback.
They were both sensational talents who tested defenses in every way; run, pass, broken plays, you name it and Banks and Wallace could do it.
They were both quick and elusive, but were also accurate passers, which is easy to overlook with a dual-threat quarterback.
But you can’t be a dual-threat quarterback without having passing skills.
A dual-threat quarterback who struggles to throw is really just a running quarterback who ultimately would be contained by today’s defenses.
Banks was proof that a dual-threat quarterback could thrive under Kirk Ferentz without having to make major changes to the offense. It was basically the same offense under Banks, but his running skills added a new dimension, which hasn’t been seen since at Iowa.
Drew Tate and C.J. Beathard weren’t dual-threat quarterbacks by definition, but they made plays with their legs, and by eluding defenders in and around the pocket.
It’s probably no coincidence that two of Iowa’s best seasons in 2004 and 2015 came with them playing quarterback.
Even Alabama has gone from using mostly pro-style quarterbacks under Nick Saban to more of a dual threat with first Jalen Hurts and now Tua Tagovailoa behind center.
There is more emphasis on speed and quickness, and with getting to the quarterback, so the days of standing in the pocket and waiting for a receiver to get open are fading fast, or so it seems.
There was a stretch shortly after Banks had played at Iowa when the Iowa coaches tried to recruit dual-threat quarterbacks.
Eric McCollom was a dual-threat quarterback from South Carolina who signed with Iowa in 2003. But he switched to receiver before transferring from Iowa to Newberry College in his home state of South Carolina, where he switched back to quarterback.
Kirk Ferentz might read this column and respond with an eye roll and one of his famous snorts because he thinks the content is silly, and who knows, maybe it is silly and misguided.
But football isn’t that complicated and it seems pretty obvious that having a quarterback who can excel at two things instead of just one is an advantage.
It seems pretty obvious that having a quarterback who can scramble from a collapsing pocket and make first downs on his own is better than having a quarterback that can’t do that.
Iowa has a mobile quarterback on its current roster in sophomore Peyton Mansell, but he is third team behind Stanley and behind redshirt freshman Spencer Petras, who at 6-5 and 230 pounds, is similar to Stanley in terms of size and playing style.
Mansell combined to rush for 1,848 yards as a junior and senior in high school in Texas, and has shown in limited playing time at Iowa that he can at least move from the pocket.
Iowa also has true freshman Alex Padilla at quarterback, and though the Colorado native resembles a dual-threat quarterback from a size standpoint at 6-1 and 193 pounds, he didn't run much in high school based on his statistics.
Some could say this request is simply an over-reaction to what happened in the last two games, but that’s not true because this request has been made before.
This isn’t a call for Stanley to be benched for Saturday’s game against Purdue, nor does it mean that Iowa should stop recruiting pro-style quarterbacks.
The most celebrated player in Iowa's 2020 recruiting class is Deuce Hogan, a 6-4, 205-pound pro-style quarterback from Grapevine, Tex. Hogan turned down scholarship offers from Georgia, Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Baylor among others to be a Hawkeye.
So he, obviously, knows how to play the position at a high level based on his list of offers.
Hogan, judging from his tape, is sort of a bigger C.J. Beathard in that he isn't a dual-threat quarterback, but he is capable of manipulating the pocket and running from trouble.
There is room for both kinds of quarterbacks on the Iowa roster. One isn't necessarily better than the other, but there is no denying the dual-threat quarterback's rise in popularity.
So this is just a request for the Iowa coaches to make recruiting dual-threat quarterbacks a bigger priority.
Make it easier on the offense by adding that 12th man.