Hawkeye Fan Shop — A Black & Gold Store | 24 Hawkeyes to Watch 2016-17 | 2017 Football Season Tickets | KinnickEdge.org | Hawk Talk Monthly — April 2017 | A VIDEO — A Look Toward the 2017 Season | Signing Day Central | Photo Gallery | Kirk Ferentz Transcript (PDF)
By RICK BROWN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The spotlight was on quarterbacks Nathan Stanley and Tyler Wiegers at the University of Iowa’s annual spring football game Friday night at Kinnick Stadium.
But Jake Gervase was the show.
The junior free safety from Davenport, Iowa, who was in the starting lineup because returning starter Brandon Snyder suffered a significant knee injury earlier this spring, had three interceptions before an announced crowd of 16,500. Gervase returned one of those interceptions for a 59-yard touchdown as the Gold team beat the Black team, 63-47.
Gervase, who came to Iowa as a walk-on out of Davenport Assumption, had 16 interceptions in high school. He never had three picks in the same game, and never returned one for a touchdown.
“Any time anyone has a good night, it’s going to help,” Gervase said. “It helps your confidence, and you feel a little more comfortable. But it’s going to be a tougher environment when we’re in here against Wyoming (Sept. 2).”
Gervase had a Division I offer from Air Force, and two other FCS offers, but came to Iowa because the program has a strong reputation for giving walk-ons a chance.
“I’ve had no regrets,” Gervase said, who is now on scholarship “It has been a lot of fun.”
Kirk Ferentz, entering his 19th season as the Hawkeyes’ head coach, said he has seen individual growth from several players over the course of 15 practices. On Friday, he singled out several performances.
“It was good to see Jake Gervase have a good night like that,” Ferentz said. “I thought Toren Young did some good things as well, and some of the safeties really showed up, which was good to see. We’re going to need help from everybody here as we move on.”
Young, a redshirt freshman running back, is competing for playing time alongside Akrum Wadley, who didn’t play in Friday’s game.
“I liked the energy and toughness he (Young) ran with, and he has been doing that all spring,” Ferentz said. “We don’t do a lot of live work, but when we do, he has looked pretty good out there.”
Iowa hasn’t entered a fall camp with a quarterback competition since 2013, when Jake Rudock emerged in a battle with C.J. Beathard and Cody Sokol. Neither Wiegers, the backup to Beathard in 2015, or Stanley, the backup to Beathard in 2016, has emerged as the leader for the job this spring.
Asked who would start if the season opener against Wyoming was tomorrow, Ferentz said, “Oh, man. We’d be in trouble, period. We’d probably do a coin toss, literally do a coin toss, but luckily we’re going to have at least 15, 18 practices before we make that decision.”
Both Wiegers, who has played in four career games and thrown four passes, and Stanley, who has played in seven career games and thrown nine passes, are adjusting to both a new offensive coordinator in Brian Ferentz and a new quarterbacks coach in Ken O’Keefe.
Gervase picked off Wiegers twice, and Stanley once.
“Obviously there are things we can clean up,” Wiegers said. “We’ve got to focus on moving forward and getting better every day.”
Wiegers said this feels like a fresh start for him.
“There are a lot of things we can work on,” Wiegers said. “The biggest thing is timing. Getting the ball out on time with every rep concept. That’s the one thing that has been harped upon with the quarterbacks this spring.”
Wiegers knows every practice in fall camp will be an opportunity to win the starting job.
“You have to take advantage of every rep you get, every opportunity you get,” Wiegers said.
Stanley said that adapting to a new offense and new coaches has been challenging.
“But it’s part of the game,” Stanley said. “It’s what we signed up for. I’m trying to get right on it and do the best I can.”
Stanley said he played with some butterflies Friday night.
“If there are not nerves, that means you don’t really care,” Stanley said. “Tyler and I are trying to improve every day.”