Alex Padilla sees improvement in spring

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City of Iowa, Iowa – The decision to come back and compete for Iowa’s starting quarterback job was easy for Alex Padilla.

Padilla started three games for the Hawkeyes last season, but it was Spencer Petras, who was the starter until he got injured, who got the nod when Iowa played in the championship game Big Ten and in the Citrus Bowl.

So it would have been understandable if Padilla decided to transfer, even though coach Kirk Ferentz said the competition for the QB position would be open in the spring.

But it was a message from former NFL coach Jim Caldwell, speaking at a panel of Iowa alumni, that resonated with Padilla.

“He really said if you trade for reasons you’re not playing or something, you’re really running away from your problems,” Padilla said after Iowa’s open practice on Saturday. “That’s not how I was brought up. I will not deprive myself of competition. I feel like this situation was really good for me, to come back to a competition. I feel like running away wouldn’t be good for me.

The competition is always open, Ferentz said, and that’s fine with Padilla.

“I like it here, I like the coaches, I like the team guys,” he said. “I was very comfortable with my decision to come back.”

Padilla was an unofficial 5-of-7 pass for 66 yards in his rehearsals in Saturday’s practice. But it’s not about the number of snaps or passing attempts for Padilla.

It’s about getting better.

“With the reps you get, you want to make sure you get the most out of it,” Padilla said. “Decision making, ball placement, footwork. I feel like I’ve done a great job so far.

“I think all three have made a lot of progress,” Ferentz said. “Alex had some injury issues that he had to deal with in the first two weeks. His work was limited.

“I think the three are growing.”

Padilla completed 55 of 112 passes for 636 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions, last season. He took over the quarterback position early in the Nov. 6 win at Northwestern when Petras, who had been injured the previous week in the loss to Wisconsin, struggled in the first quarter. He started the wins over Minnesota and Illinois, but was replaced by Petras in the second half in the win at Nebraska.

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“I’m sure (the transfer) has crossed a lot of guys’ minds, if you don’t play,” Padilla said.

It took Padilla about a week after the Citrus Bowl loss to Kentucky to decide to come back.

“It didn’t take long,” he said.

Padilla said entering the NCAA transfer portal had no guarantee of finding a new school.

“You are playing with fire if you go there,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen.”

His comfort level in Iowa played the biggest role in his decision.

“It really comes down to football at the end of the day, but there are a lot more factors that influence that,” Padilla said.

Padilla has adapted to offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz who also works with quarterbacks. But Padilla also believes he has improved on the pitch.

“I feel like I’ve done a lot better in a lot of ways,” he said.

Padilla echoed what Petras said at the start of practice – that he doesn’t see it as a competition.

“For Spencer and Joe, and myself, we’re all focused on self-improvement,” Padilla said. “Just an improvement in the areas we need to work on.”

The QB battle continues and Padilla wants to keep fighting.

“The coaches said from the jump that the best man was going to play,” he said. “That’s how it goes not just for the quarterback position, but for any position.”

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