Cade McNamara Opens Iowa Spring Practice as QB1

As the Iowa Hawkeyes open spring practice, Cade McNamara is emerging as an offensive leader and probable QB1 for the 2023 college campaign.

There’s no denying that the Iowa Hawkeyes have had their offensive struggles in recent years, particularly at the quarterback position. The start of spring brings a season of rebirth, and Michigan transfer Cade McNamara is emerging as an early leader and probable QB1 for the college football campaign.

Cade McNamara Opens Iowa Spring Practice as QB1, Emerging as Offensive Leader

Offensively, last season was difficult to watch for Iowa fans. The Hawkeyes propped up the Big Ten conference, ranking dead last for total offense — averaging just 251.6 yards per game. Scoring offense wasn’t much better, with Iowa’s 17.7 points per game ranking ahead of only Rutgers and Northwestern.

While there has been an external focus on coaching staff and scheme as the root cause of the Iowa offensive deficiencies, the Hawkeyes made on-field moves in the offseason designed to address some of those issues. Namely, the addition of two quarterbacks with Big Ten experience.

Although former Wisconsin passer Deacon Hill is expected to compete alongside incumbent Joe Labas, it is former Michigan Wolverine starter Cade McNamara that opens Iowa spring practice atop the recently issued depth chart.

Not only does the former four-star QB out of Damonte Ranch sit atop the depth chart as spring practice begins, but McNamara’s emerging as a leader for this Iowa team early in the buildup to the 2023 college football season.

While he’s earning the respect of his teammates, head coach Kirk Ferentz first recognized the leadership qualities in his new QB in 2021. McNamara was the starter for Michigan as the Wolverines beat the Hawkeyes in the 2021 Big Ten Championship Game, where a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to new Iowa tight end Erick All piled on to an eventual 42-3 loss.

“Looking across the field at him,” Ferentz recalled that game as he spoke to reporters at his spring practice press conference, “sure struck me as a leader. Watching him on film going into that game, struck me as a leader of a really good football team.

“That’s an added plus when you can have somebody join your team like that, that has experience already. All that being said, he fully realized he had to come in and earn it with this team, this group of guys. He’s done a great job there.”

McNamara’s positioning as Iowa’s QB1 on the spring depth chart and his emergence as a leader for this Hawkeyes team early in his time with the program should build confidence for a quarterback who lost a battle for the starting job to J.J. McCarthy last season before having his year ended by a knee injury.

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Ferentz is taking it gently with his new QB while McNamara continues to recover fully from surgery. The former Michigan man will get work in with the ones during spring practice, but don’t expect to see him out there behind an offensive line that is also short on numbers after opening spring camp.

“Not full throttle,” Ferentz responded when asked about McNamara’s availability this spring. “Good news is he’s been throwing some individual stuff, throwing on his own. He’s able to do some seven-on-seven right now. I think we’re probably a month and a half, two months from him being full speed.”

That opens up some opportunities to evaluate some of the less experienced quarterbacks on the Iowa roster through spring camp. The former Wisconsin QB, Hill, is a three-star out of Santa Barbara in the 2021 recruiting class that has just one passing attempt on his résumé from two seasons spent in Madison.

Despite the lack of in-game experience, the 6’3″, 230-pound passer has made an early impression on the Iowa head coach.

“First of all, he’s big,” Ferentz began his evaluation of the former Badger. “Bigger than most quarterbacks I’ve been around. That’s the first impression. He throws the ball well, has a great personality. We’re really excited. I think he has a good feel for what’s going on, what he’s doing. Excited to have him on the team.”

With Alex Padilla and Carson May transferring out of the program, there are currently four QBs on Iowa’s roster as spring camp began. A fifth, Marco Lainez III, will join in June as part of the Hawkeyes’ recruiting class.

“I think it’s going to be a good competition based on what I’ve seen. I thought Joe did a really great job over the course of the month making major strides. Where he’s at now compared to where he was at in December is night and day. We’re excited about him. We’re excited about Deacon and Cade. I think we have a good player coming to join us in June, as well.”

MORE: New BYU Quarterbacks Taking To Offense Quickly in Provo

One of the four currently on the roster is three-year starter Spencer Petras, who returns to Iowa this fall despite the very real possibility that he won’t play college football again. The much-maligned QB tore his labrum and rotator cuff against Nebraska last season and underwent surgery that usually has a significant recovery timescale.

Reflecting on that injury at the end of the season, Petras sounded like a man who knows he won’t play for the Hawkeyes again while wanting to fully close the door on his college football career.

“I’m kind of working through the next step of my career after football,” Petras was quoted by Hawk Central, “but also ensuring that I don’t look back with any regrets in terms of finishing my playing career. I’m not exactly sure what that’ll look like quite yet. I know I’ll be at Iowa in the spring rehabbing and helping Cade, help whoever, teach what I know about our system.”

During his spring press conference, head coach Ferentz concurred with that message, telling reporters that “I don’t think he’ll be playing. We’ll see. We’ll let that play itself out.”

As far back as December, Petras may have given the game away about the next QB1 of the Hawkeyes, and Iowa’s spring depth chart seems to indicate that McNamara will be the main man under center when they open the season against Utah State in Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 2.