(File Photo) Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe calls plays during the Iowa vs. Iowa State game in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010. (The Daily Iowan/David Scrivner)

Hawk QB race heats up spring

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By Adam Hensley 

adam-hensley@uiowa.edu

Nathan Stanley, who many deemed the starting quarterback immediately following the conclusion of Iowa’s 2016 season, may be in for some competition with fellow signal-caller Tyler Wiegers.

Quarterback coach Ken O’Keefe said the two are closer than many believe.

“They separated themselves from the rest of the pack,” he said. “They’re getting equal number of reps every day. It’s neck-and-neck, and they’re going at it like it is at this point, too.”

Stanley, the only quarterback aside from C.J. Beathard to throw a pass last season, appeared in seven games during his freshman season, finishing 5-of-9 for 62 yards.

Wiegers didn’t take a snap in 2016, but he played in four games during the 2015 campaign. The junior completed 3-of-4 passes for 32 yards.

The Lake Orion, Michigan, native’s ability to learn the system catapulted him into the starter conversation.

System experience plays a factor in deciding which passer receives the starting nod come Sept. 2 against Wyoming, but because neither have garnered significant playing time in their Hawkeye careers, both need to get a hold on the basics before taking over the job.

“Everything’s new to these guys right now,” O’Keefe said. “So we’re working on the whole progression of the passing game. It starts with the drop; their feet end up leading them through their progressions. Their progression affects their accuracy greatly. And we’re trying to focus on teaching them the reads, training their eyes to see how we want things done and react accordingly.”

Nick Easley watch

Another factor leading into the decision is ball delivery and anticipation. O’Keefe anticipates a “big jump” from this week into next.

Wide receivers coach Kelton Copeland noted that Nick Easley surprised him “in more ways than one.”

“He surprised me before we got on the field,” Copeland said. “He caught my eye. When we got on the field, that translated over. His attention to detail translated over into his play. If you were out in practice, wherever the last time you were out at practice, you would have seen that result in production.”

Easley, who originally intended to walk on at Iowa State this upcoming season, flipped his decision after Iowa offered him his only Division-1 opportunity. Last season, Easley played junior-college ball at Iowa Western, where he snagged 72 passes for 954 yards. He scored 7 touchdowns.

The first-team Juco All-American could see some playing time early; Copeland said several young, new faces could see playing time this year.

“Nick is one of those guys who’s producing at a steady rate, and he’s getting better by the day,” he said. “So he’s definitely done some things in my eyes that’s going to put him in the conversation.”

Taking a step in the right route

With Matt VandeBerg out with injury and Jerminic Smith removed from football activities after failing to meet academic standards, the door stands wide open for some of the unproven receivers to make their marks.

Two players in particular, Adrian Falconer and Devonte Young, have been with the program for more than a season but have yet to receive significant playing time. Copeland believes this season will provide both wideouts with an opportunity to get over the hump.

“We met with those guys individually yesterday, and that was really the talk,” he said. “Like, all right, we have three weeks into it. We have two weeks left. We only have six more opportunities. At that time, we’ll have six more opportunities to get better and get to that level. Now’s the time to push.”