First you don't see a quarterback, now you do. Iowa prefers to add a quarterback in every recruiting class as a matter of roster balance but as of a few weeks ago it wasn't clear there were any quarterback prospects on Iowa's radar for this recruiting class. Then Colorado prep Alex Padilla's name started popping up as an option. He picked up an offer a few days and, as of Thursday, he became the latest member of Iowa's 2019 recruiting class:
Padilla, listed at 6'1", 191 lbs, is rated a 3* prospect by Rivals and 247Sports. He chose Iowa over offers from Colorado State, Nevada, Central Michigan, and about half the Ivy League. (Seriously: he had offers from Cornell, Columbia, Dartmouth, Yale, and Penn.) He also had Ye Olde Interest from the likes of Utah, Oregon State, and Indiana.
The fact that Padilla is from Colorado is unusual -- I can't recall the last time Iowa had a player from Colorado on the roster -- but less so given that he's a quarterback. Iowa casts a very wide net when it comes to quarterbacks and they look under every rock and in every nook and cranny to find options there. Consider that the quarterback they added in last year's class, Spencer Petras, is from California -- also not exactly a hotbed of Iowa recruiting. And the quarterback they grabbed in the class of 2017, Payton Mansell, is from Texas, which has been a Hawkeye hotspot at times (mostly during the Greg Davis Era), but isn't exactly a primary talent pipeline.
Quarterback recruiting is, simply, its own weird beast. Sometimes Iowa lands a quarterback early, as they did with Nate Stanley in 2016; he gave a verbal commitment to Iowa in November... of 2014. But sometimes it comes late in the process. Iowa flipped Tyler Wiegers, their Class of 2014 QB recruit, from Rutgers in December of 2013 and Spencer Petras' recruitment and commitment was a whirlwind last December. In terms of commitment timing, Padilla's verbal to Iowa most resembles Peyton Mansell, who declared for Iowa on June 21, 2016. Quarterbacks turn up when they turn up.
In Padilla's case, everything heated up when he attended one of Iowa's summer camps a few weeks ago. It seems like both sides were pretty smitten at that point. Iowa offered him on June 11 and Padilla was so taken with the program that he felt ready to shut down his recruitment, telling Hawkeye Report:
“I just don’t think there’s any other school that’s going to come along that would be a better offer or a better place for me to go than Iowa,” said Padilla. “I just love it there.”
He elaborated on his decision in another interview with Hawkeye Report ($):
Q: What led up to your decision and what made up your mind about Iowa?
PADILLA: When I went to camp out there, just visiting the entire campus and seeing all of the facilities, it really just felt like home. That’s what really made the decision for me. It’s a place that I could see myself at even if football went away. I just really felt at home there.
He also noted that he probably got on Iowa's radar as a result of new Iowa graduate assistant Josh Sinagoga, who came from Central Michigan (who was the first team to offer Padilla). He said he models his game after Baker Mayfield (!), for his ability to "make throws in the pocket and also move around and do stuff with his feet."
His highlight reel from last season shows off those skills quite well, particularly the "make throws from the pocket" part.
Padilla, who threw for 2678 yards and 40 touchdowns while completing 67.7% of his passes as a junior, shows off some good skills there. His accuracy is certainly on display there and he throws a very catchable ball, either putting it where only his receiver can get it or putting it in a spot where his receiver can get it and gain yards after the catch. His release looks pretty good and while he may not have a 70+ yard cannon of an arm, there are plenty of deep balls in those highlights and they look solid. (Incidentally, can Iowa bring in his offensive coordinator too? I can't recall the last time I saw so many wide open receivers in a highlight reel; either his receivers are incredible at getting separation or the coaches there are designing some great plays.) He shows off his running ability a little bit, but only to escape pressure or as a last resort; his focus is definitely on looking downfield and finding an open receiver.
Overall, Padilla looks like an intriguing prospect and a welcome addition to Iowa's 2019 recruiting class. Under Ferentz and O'Keefe Iowa has had pretty good luck with somewhat under the radar quarterback prospects; hopefully Padilla is the latest success story there. Like Petras last year, Padilla is planning to graduate a semester early (in December of this year) and enroll at Iowa early (January 2019). That will give him an extra semester to study the playbook and work with the Iowa team. The most likely plan is that he redshirts during the 2019 season (which should be Stanley's senior year) and in 2020 competes with Mansell (then a junior) and Petras (then a sophomore) for the starting gig. In any event, welcome to Iowa, Alex.