Spencer Petras was up and down during his first season as Iowa’s starting quarterback. Despite that, Iowa bounced back from an 0-2 start to reel off 6 consecutive victories to close 2020. The defense and running attack anchored Iowa’s hot finish.

Iowa ended last season ranked No. 16 in the AP poll and on the longest active winning streak in the B1G.

In order for Iowa to take the next step and contend for the B1G title, Petras will need to be more consistent and dynamic in 2021. The experience Petras gained last season will translate to just that.

During Friday’s edition of B1G Media Days, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz emphasized that while the Hawkeyes have traditionally done well with first-year starting quarterbacks, the unprecedented nature of the pandemic affected season slowed the learning curve for Petras.

That’s a major point and not excuse-making.

You can’t discredit the fact that Petras didn’t have the same amount of offseason time to grow chemistry with his teammates. Obviously, that impaired his development. As a result, Petras had many mediocre performances in his first season as the starting quarterback.

However, he finally started to showcase his skill-set with 431 passing yards and 5 touchdowns in the last 2 games, against Illinois and Wisconsin.

“I thought he did remarkably well considering the obstacles that he had to overcome,” Ferentz said.

The game against Illinois where Petras stepped up in the second half gave Ferentz a glimpse into his potential. Petras amassed 3 touchdowns and 220 yards in the victory.

“I thought that his highest, the best game I saw him play or the most gratifying game as a coach was at Illinois, where he probably couldn’t have played much more poorly in the first half and really put us behind the 8-ball and then came back in the second half and played just tremendously well,” Ferentz said. “I think that was a great learning experience for him and I think it also was very revealing in terms of how he’s wired and how he’s built. He’s a really resilient guy, tough-minded guy, extremely conscientious.”

That version of Petras is who Iowa will get in 2021. The potential of Petras will finally be realized as he enters his second season at the helm.

The junior has good size (6-5, 231 pounds) and a big arm. He threw for 1,569 yards with 9 TDs and 5 INTs, but the expectation is that those positive numbers will grow. Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette are gone, but Petras will have some talented playmakers to spread the ball around to, such as Tyrone Tracy, Nico Ragaini, Charlie Jones and Sam LaPorta.

With more targets coming his way in 2021, Tracy is striving to be the “best wide receiver in the Big Ten” and “hit 1,000 yards,” via 247Sports. Emerging chemistry between Spencer and Tracy should make the Iowa passing attack even more lethal.

If Petras utilizes his weapons correctly, it’ll carve out more space for star running back Tyler Goodson. Vice versa, the threat of Goodson on the ground will help spread the field for Petras. Additionally, the offensive line is expected to be stout, anchored by center Tyler Linderbaum, so Petras will have the necessary time to make throws.

Add it all up and there’s reason to be optimistic about Petras’ capabilities. Petras will still have to compete with backup Alex Padilla but count on Petras getting the nod and his development being a key factor in Iowa’s chances to be a dark horse for the B1G championship.

“As a coach, we give witness to just how committed he is to, not only him being a good football player and being totally ready, but how committed he is to helping his teammates and being team-oriented,” Ferentz said. “And so I continue to be really impressed with him, but like everybody else, he’ll be competing in August and it’s going to be fun to watch that competition. But we all feel really good about him and have great confidence in Spencer.”