IOWA CITY, Iowa — Cade McNamara saw an opportunity in Iowa’s offense.
After starting all 14 games for Michigan in 2021 and injuring a knee three games into last season, McNamara looks at his move as a fresh start and one that gives him a chance to revive one of the FBS’ least productive offenses.
“Honestly, I’m just ready to start my career here,” McNamara said during a media availability Thursday. “I couldn’t be more excited to be a Hawkeye.”
Quarterback has been a big question mark for the Hawkeyes. Starter Spencer Petras suffered a severe shoulder injury in the regular-season finale against Nebraska, backup Alex Padilla entered the transfer portal in late November and third-stringer Joey Labas was left to start the Music City Bowl, a 21-0 win over Kentucky.
McNamara, who completed 14 of 25 passes before getting hurt three games into last season, was looking for a new school after J.J. McCarthy became firmly established as the Wolverines’ starter. McNamara, a graduate transfer, waited to enter the transfer portal until after the regular season and had plenty of choices.
“All the schools have your number,” McNamara said. “Once I entered, it kind of got crazy. But the thing is, I already had a couple of places in mind.”
One of those places was Iowa. McNamara had played against the Hawkeyes before, throwing for 169 yards and a touchdown in the 2021 Big Ten championship game win. Plus, he had a previous relationship with Jon Budmayr, who tried to recruit McNamara when he was quarterbacks coach at Wisconsin and is now as assistant at Iowa.
“I knew I could trust [Budmayr],” McNamara said. “The more and more I did research, the more it felt like a perfect fit. I think I’ve seen the potential. I’ve played Iowa before. I think I know what the brand means. Just looking at the pieces we do have here already, it’s huge.”
Sixth-year wide receiver Nico Ragaini said he’s impressed with McNamara’s attitude about improving the offense.
“I know people like to say we were horrible, but he’s ready to make this place, I guess, not horrible,” Ragaini said. “I don’t know how you want to word it.”
McNamara has served as a recruiter since joining the Hawkeyes. Former Michigan tight end Erick All has transferred to Iowa, as well as wide receiver Seth Anderson from Charleston Southern.
“He was in my Twitter [direct messages], talking about, ‘Oh, you’d look good in black and gold. You should come there,'” Anderson said. “We were texting a little bit, talking about making things happen. I knew he was the top quarterback coming in, and he was looking to be QB1, so I was, like, it’s good that he’s hitting me up, getting a good connection with him.”
Ragaini said McNamara gained immediate respect.
“I feel like he’s one of the most vocal guys on the team, and he just got here a few weeks ago,” Ragaini said.
McNamara, who has thrown for 3,181 yards in his career, said it’s his job to build relationships.
“As we’re on the field more, I’ll be able to develop more of a chemistry with the guys I’m throwing with, the guys who are blocking for me, and the guys running the ball,” he said. “Overall, the process has been nothing but great so far, because they’ve been able to teach me stuff about the offense as well.”
McNamara said the rehabilitation from the surgery on his injured knee has gone well, and he expects to be a participant when spring practice opens this month.
“I’m not really stressing,” he said. “I’m hitting my stride in everything I’m doing. I’m going to be super amped-up to be on the field with the boys.”