Iowa's returnees are great, but 2022 still comes down to the QB
Iowa has had a ton of great news in recent weeks, the kind of news that should set the tone for a strong 2022. What program wouldn’t love to have a week where their best players announce they are coming back for another year?
That’s exactly what has happened with Iowa. Linebacker Jack Campbell, cornerback Riley Moss and tight end Sam LaPorta are all coming back for another year. Campbell, the nation’s leading tackler and First Team All-B1G, was the latest to make his decision public. Moss, the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year, and LaPorta, Iowa’s top offensive weapon, are legitimate studs. Obviously.
And yet the unfortunate part is, I’m wondering, how much does it really matter? Unless Iowa fixes its QB situation, 2022 will go a lot like 2021; between 8-10 wins, some agonizing losses to inferior teams and one of the worst offenses in the Big Ten.
Think about it: How much better can Iowa’s defense be in 2022? The Hawkeyes had 25 interceptions this season, the most of any FBS team since 2016. Even with Moss and Jermari Harris returning at corner (the duo combined for 8 interceptions), it’s not going to be easy to duplicate that success. Even if they do, where does that get them? Pretty much the same spot they were in this year, which seemed a little unfulfilling. Iowa was the West champion, but it got smoked in the Big Ten Championship Game. Iowa fans wanted more, and frankly, I don’t blame them. That was a frustrating way to end the season.
Iowa needs much better play at quarterback, obviously. Spencer Petras and Alex Padilla combined for 12 TD passes and 11 interceptions in 14 games for the Hawkeyes this season. The offense was doing OK for a while, but as soon as the defense stopped picking off 3 or 4 passes each week, Iowa had trouble scoring. The offense alone did not generate near enough points. Iowa had 3 passing touchdowns in the final 8 games.
Petras, quite frankly, is who he is. He’s been starting for 2 seasons, and Iowa has gone 16-6. But if Alex Padilla had been starting, would the record be any different? Probably not by much, if at all.
Tyler Goodson leaving for the NFL is a blow, but if the Citrus Bowl was any indication, he is replaceable. Gavin Williams helped Iowa run for 211 yards, its highest total in 9 games. Not to discount Goodson or his abilities, because he will be missed, but the Hawkeyes ran the ball at will against Kentucky. The problem was that Petras threw 3 interceptions, including one that ended the game. Iowa’s defense was terrific against a Kentucky offense that had scored 34 points or more in 4 straight games, but it didn’t matter.
That’s what the concern for 2022 is. And that’s why this is a fascinating situation to follow. Iowa needs one piece — albeit a big piece — and suddenly it becomes a very interesting team, especially considering the rest of the West has QB issues, too.
Georgia had as good of an all-around team as you can get, and it won a national title with a former walk-on at QB. But it wasn’t without a ton of scrutiny and question marks about whether Stetson Bennett could get it done. And that’s despite Bennett finishing this season third in the country in yards per attempt. The standard is high with the top programs, and it should be with Iowa, too.
If Iowa can get better QB play — whether that’s from Petras, Padilla, Joey Labas or someone not yet on the roster — think of what this team can be. The pieces are in place, thanks to Campbell, Moss and LaPorta coming back