April 23, 2024

Kirk Ferentz feeling positive having Marco Lainez at quarterback

Iowa Hawkeyes Football

Iowa quarterback Marco Lainez drops back to attempt a pass during the fourth quarter of the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl against Tennessee Monday January, 1, 2024 at Camping World Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

ORLANDO, Fla. — There’s no denying Monday’s 35-0 loss to Tennessee was a humbling experience for Iowa, but there was a bright spot for the offense.

After the offense struggled throughout the afternoon, and quarterback Deacon Hill committed his third turnover of the game, Coach Kirk Ferentz decided to insert true freshman Marco Lainez in the fourth quarter. No one was expecting much because the Hawkeyes were already down 28-0 at that point, but Lainez clearly gave the offense a spark.

He was able to do what Hill couldn’t, and that was run with the ball. Lainez maneuvered through the Volunteers’ defense with ease, and generated a couple of first downs. The New Jersey native handled himself like a seasoned veteran instead of a wide-eyed freshman against an SEC defense, and that impressed Ferentz.

“He (Lainez) certainly got work as the season went on, but he still has a lot of learning to do, a lot of time in front of him and all those types of things,” Ferentz said. “All this will be good experience for him, something to draw upon and does not burn a year of eligibility, so that is a good thing.”

Lainez only completed two of his seven passes for four yards in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl. However, he led the team with 51 yards on the ground. Not to mention he averaged a jaw-dropping, 8.5 yards per carry. It was a head-scratcher to many Iowa fans as to why Ferentz didn’t start Lainez in the first place, or put him in the game earlier.

“Obviously, we felt our best chance to win, because we started Deacon and played Deacon the majority of the game,” he said. “We thought that gave us our best chance to win, but at some point, you just felt like making a change to be the best thing, and that is what drives every personnel decision.”

Now the Hawkeyes are approaching uncharted territory for the off-season, with Offensive Coordinator Brian Ferentz no longer with the team, and the uncertainty in the quarterback room. Cade McNamara is still recovering from season-ending knee surgery, Hill has the experience and Lainez has the most upside.

That means the Hawkeyes may have an intense battle on their hands once spring ball rolls around. Iowa (10-4) has yet to name the successor to Ferentz, and that’ll be vital with the direction of the offense moving forward. Still, the 68-year old coach likes the talent he has at the quarterback position, and appreciates the value Lainez brings to the table.

The former three-star prospect was able to get his feet wet, and that should be beneficial for him down the road. Ferentz knows it’s still going to come down to spring ball, and the quarterback that invests the most in the new playbook, will likely be at the top of depth chart entering the summer. Regardless, Ferentz is remaining optimistic that all three signal-callers will stay on the roster, and not enter the transfer portal.

“We will let everybody compete in the spring and see where it all goes.”