Iowa starting QB Cade McNamara announces 2024 return following season-ending knee injury

Iowa quarterback Cade McNamara clarified Wednesday that he will be back with the program next season after tearing his ACL on Sept. 30 in Iowa’s win over Michigan State. “There is still a lot I want to accomplish in the Black and Gold and look forward to bringing it to life in the 2024 season,” McNamara wrote in a message posted to his social media accounts.

McNamara will be in his sixth season of college football next year but still eligible since he redshirted as a true freshman at Michigan in 2019 and the COVID-impacted 2020 season does not count towards eligibility. The Reno, Nevada, native completed 46 of 90 passes for 505 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions in four and a half games this season before the injury.

Iowa averaged 22.2 points during the five games in which McNamara played as the Hawkeyes began 4-1 and within striking distance of the 25 points per game average needed to meet the contractual stipulations of embattled offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz. However, the Hawkeyes have averaged just 15 points in the three games since his injury and backup QB Deacon Hill has struggled.

Even with McNamara, Iowa’s passing attack sputtered. After beginning the season with an an encouraging 191-yard passing outing that featured two touchdowns and no interceptions in a win over Utah State, his production tapered off leading up to the injury. In a game and a half against Big Ten opposition, McNamara completed 8 of 19 passes for 88 yards.

McNamara’s potential

McNamara’s pedestrian performance before the injury may have been a greater reflection on the Iowa offensive system than on McNamara himself considering his steady track record. The former four-star prospect completed 63.1% of his passes while at Michigan and started all 14 games for the Wolverines in 2021 as they reached the College Football Playoff for the first time. After being supplanted by J.J. McCarthy in 2022, McCarthy opted to transfer.

The idea behind adding an experienced Big Ten quarterback is that he could raise the floor of an Iowa team that ranked 129th in total offense last season to something a bit more respectable. He still could in 2024 if fully healthy. Part of the reason McNamara struggled to build off his solid season-opening performance against Utah State may be attributable to his absence from practice for much of August and early September. McNamara injured his quad in an Aug. 12 scrimmage and didn’t return as a full practice participant until after the Hawkeyes’ second game. The injury hampered his ability to build chemistry with receivers and master the Iowa offense.

Other options

Even if the Hawkeyes fail to reach the 325-point threshold this season and coach Kirk Ferentz moves on from Brian Ferentz, his son, to a new offensive coordinator, a massive overhaul in scheme seems improbable for a program that takes pride in its identity as a defensive and special teams juggernaut. Assuming the Hawkeyes still want a mistake-averse quarterback with stereotypical “game manager” qualities next season, McNamara is likely going to be the best bet.

Given the program’s poor recent track record at the position, it’s unlikely that Iowa is going to make a splashy quarterback addition in the transfer portal. While 2024 quarterback commitment James Resar is regarded as a four-star prospect with dual-threat ability, McNamara would be the smarter play for Iowa to begin 2024 as opposed to entrusting an offense lacking in other playmakers to a freshman. As Hill has demonstrated in recent weeks, the other quarterback options currently on the roster behind McNamara are not particularly attractive. Thus, it stands to reason that McNamara will be returning to a starting position next season, so long as his rehabilitation goes smoothly.

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