Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara is not practicing while dealing with a muscle issue in his leg, Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz told media on Wednesday. McNamara is questionable to return for Iowa's season opener against Utah State on Sept. 2.
"The good news is I think he has a chance to start working in towards the end of this week," Ferentz said. "Certainly by next Monday when we hit the field thinking about our opponent... we'll know more at the end of the week, but I'm optimistic and we'll see."
McNamara suffered the injury during an open scrimmage on Aug. 12. It occurred on a non-contact play while scrambling out of the pocket. He headed to the locker room after the play and did not return to the scrimmage. To make matters worse, primary backup quarterback Joe Labas has also missed time with injuries during preseason camp, leaving Wisconsin transfer Deacon Hill to take first-team reps.
McNamara missed most of the 2022 season at Michigan after undergoing surgery on his knee. In his lone season as a full-time starter, McNamara completed 64.2% of his passes, throwing for 2,576 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions. McNamara opted to transfer after losing the starting quarterback job to J.J. McCarthy.
Labas earned the first start of his career during the Music City Bowl. He led them to a 21-0 victory over Kentucky, throwing for 139 yards and one touchdown on 10 of 24 passing. Hill has never thrown a collegiate pass.
McNamara was a key addition for Iowa as the Hawkeyes attempt to improve an offense that ranked among the worst in the nation last season. The unit, which is coordinated by Ferentz's son Brian, ranked ahead of only New Mexico in total offense and bottom 10 nationally in passing offense.
McNamara led Michigan to a 12-2 record and their first conference championship since 2004 in his only year as a starter. More importantly, McNamara quarterbacked Michigan to their first win over rival Ohio State in eight tries. The Wolverines averaged 35.8 points per game under McNamara.
Now, McNamara is one of several transfers entrusted with fixing the offense. Tight end and fellow Michigan transfer Erick All joins offensive linemen Rusty Feth (Miami-Ohio) and Daijon Parker (Saginaw Valley State) as new faces for the Hawkeyes.
After the miserable 2022 campaign in which the Hawkeyes averaged just 17.7 points per game, offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz signed a contract that required his offense to average 25 points per game or face termination.
If McNamara is limited against Utah State on Sept. 2, it could have major implications for Iowa's "Drive for 325 Points" challenge. Utah State ranks as the worst scoring defense on Iowa's schedule, making the game a critical opportunity to stack points. The last time Iowa averaged more than 25 points per game (2019), the Hawkeyes put up 135 points in four games against non-conference opponents.
The Hawkeyes are a cool 31-1 when scoring at least 25 points during the Brian Ferentz era. Unfortunately, that also means Ferentz's offenses have scored at least 25 points only 32 times in 74 games, including just three times in 2022.