Although all three are being portrayed as being neck-and-neck, I really believe it is McCann's job to lose for the early season games. Kyle does not have a great arm and his speed and quickness are below average for the position, but he is the senior veteran who has the best resume. Iowa has the luxury of having two returning QBs who have both led the team to victories, but McCann played better in the two games that Iowa won with him at the helm than Beutjer did in the Michigan State victory.
Controversy and competition are nothing new to McCann. As a result of an off-season injury to Scott Mullen, Kyle was listed second on the depth chart in 1998 behind Randy Reiners. He outplayed and was much more consistent than Reiners in the spring game and regular season that year. However, because of a nagging ankle problem and the fact Reiners was more mobile behind a very understrength OL, Kyle's playing time was inconsistent in 1998 and 1999. His performances against Central Michigan, Iowa State, and Arizona were very good in his freshman year of '98, but his Minnesota statistics were just as bad as everyone else on the team in the season finale that year. Despite the team suffering through a mind-numbing 3-8 season, most Hawk fans had high hopes for Kyle because of his performance against the 11-1 Arizona team in which he was 18-36 for 274 yards in a gutsy effort with great presence in the pocket.
The struggles of the offensive line combined with not getting to pick apart Indiana have hurt Kyle's playing time the most over the last two seasons. Because of his lack of quickness in the pocket over his first few years, the coaches went with different options as they struggled to patch a young offensive line together as injuries mounted. Indiana, or not getting to play against Indiana the last two seasons, has hurt Kyle as the Hoosiers had one of the worst pass defenses in the country. In 1999, Scott Mullen was 36-60 for 426 yards as the Hawks lost 38-31, while Beutjer was 30-47 for 380 yards and 4 TDs as the Hawks lost 45-33 in the 2000 season. Mullen had some other good performances in 1999, but both QBs had their career day against the Hoosiers. Since the rest of the Big Ten QBs have also lit the Hoosiers up over the last few years, it is safe to say that Kyle could have played to a high level as well had he been named the starter in either one of those games.
McCann has never had a gaudy statistical performance like Jon and Scott had against Indiana, and until the Penn State game last year, many Hawk fans did not think the Hawks could win consistently with him at the helm. His Penn State performance changed all of that, as he was 25-37 for 232 yards against the Nittany Lions. Not only did the team win 26-23 in overtime in Happy Valley in one of the most exciting games since 1996, but Kyle made many clutch throws and showed leadership in some difficult moments. Although he will never challenge Brad Banks or Antwann Randle El in a foot race, Kyle also ran 16 times for 49 yards against a good PSU Defense. McCann also played well in a great 27-17 win over Big Ten Co-Champ Northwestern, but the PSU performance and his veteran experience are the reasons he goes into the Kent State game as the starter.
The wildcard in the mix is Brad Banks. Seldom in the last thirty years has a QB with his foot speed and quickness been in the program. Banks played WR his first year in junior college and QB last season before transferring to Iowa in January. In the spring game he showed a strong arm and good feet (he has been clocked at 4.4 in the 40 yard dash), but made some poor reads as he threw several passes into coverage while going 4-11 for 38 yards with 2 interceptions in the game. Learning a new offense at the college level is not easy for anyone, especially for someone that is trying to win the starting quarterback job at the same time. The spring and summer workouts have really helped Brad, and he really has impressed the coaches this fall to the point where he could see spot action in the opener. He has the physical tools to scare opponents with his arm and his ability to avoid the rush, and if the other two QBs struggle at all, Brad could easily be playing by midseason. If the offensive line struggles as well, his playing time might increase even sooner.
In his three years at the helm of the Iowa program, Coach Ferentz seems to give the upperclassmen the benefit of the doubt and first chance to be the starter at QB. The position is a leadership position that requires the good decision-making and maturity that veteran quarterbacks are more likely to exhibit. Jon and Kyle have both shown that they are Big Ten-quality quarterbacks, but neither look like they are capable of carrying a team the way Randle El, Drew Brees, or others have done around the conference in recent years. If the offensive line plays well and stays healthy, either could be very effective in racking up statistics and victories. The wide receivers health and ability to play near the level the position performed at last season is also part of this equation.
If the OL is better this year, every position should look better. The QB position returns as much experience and depth and as any other year in recent memory, but I still believe that if this team is to dramatically improve on offense, the OL and WRs are the positions that are the real wildcards. Jeremy Allen and Ladell Betts are going to have big years if they are healthy. Several linemen and Kahlil Hill are also proven performers who should be even better if they remain healthy. If C.J. Jones lives up to the hype and Ben Sobieski comes back healthy, then whoever plays QB is going to have a good year. If all the weapons are healthy and the QB struggles, then another QB will have a great opportunity to do some significant things.
Media Day Quotes on the Quarterback Competition (8/10/2001)
From Coach Ferentz
"It's not unlike the last two years when we were not sure who our starter was, but it is unlike the last two years that we have two guys in Kyle and Jon that we have great faith in. There is no one on the team who would question if we could win with either one."
"Unless one guy just throws it in the dirt from day one, we're going to have a tough decision to make. Everybody realizes the buck stops somewhere. And I'm going to have to make that call."
"One thing about Brad Banks is that he is a mature guy. He's got confidence and demeanor that he brings to the field. I think he could contribute out there (as a wide receiver) but the first thing we have to do it make sure we have three good quarterbacks when the season starts."
"Kyle is No. 1, and Jon, if you will, is 1A. We're going to let them compete. Brad Banks is an interesting sidebar to this whole thing. I'm anxious to see where he's at here in the next week or two."
From Kyle McCann
"I've shown that I'll persevere and work hard through whatever the situation may be. I think my teammates look at that and respect that."
"I've shown I'll do whatever it takes to help this football team be the best it can be. And I think that's an advantage for me."
From Brad Banks "I haven't talked at all about playing wide receiver with the coaches. I don't know anything about wide receiver. I'm not even looking forward to playing it."
"They brought me in to quarterback, and that's where I've been ever since. I worked on getting stronger. That was my disadvantage. That was one of my goals, and I accomplished it."
"I feel a lot more comfortable with the offense. I've pretty much picked up everything in the system. Going into (the fall first practice), I know what to expect. I know I have to come in and get into the action. I'm pretty sure I'm going to get some playing time before it's all said and done."