Maybe it was selling hope, but late last season, some whispers came out of the Iowa program about quarterback C.J. Beathard.
They were the good kind of whispers. They were along the lines of “we really like C.J. Beathard.” When you’re a true freshman quarterback running the scout team and getting a few reps with the Iowa offense, that’s something. That’s a start.
This spring, coach Kirk Ferentz discussed how well the staff was able to get to know Beathard last fall.
“You know pretty well, because we still do work even in season against each other minus the starters, and so he was a scout team quarterback,” Ferentz said. “He ran our offense and was in on every meeting, traveled to every game, all those types of things.
“When you are around people on a continual basis, seven days a week or six days a week, you really get a pretty good feel for what they are. Needless to say, the circumstances are going to change for all those guys now.”
The really keen observers of Iowa football know what the “Team Leader Award” is. It’s given during the postseason banquet and goes to the scout team honcho. Some believe it means that player is in the plans for the next year. More likely, it’s simply recognition for putting in some thankless duty.
Beathard won that award last year for Iowa. Maybe it does mean the player is in the plans?
Key 2012 factor: Iowa has made a practice of taking true freshmen who show promise and show up in practice on road trips even though they won’t play because of the redshirt. Beathard took every trip last season, so that’s a positive. He showed up last fall 6-2, 180 pounds. That’s not a body that will hold up in major college football. Going into August, Beathard is up to 195. In the spring game he showed that the weight hasn’t slowed him down. He had two scrambles for 17 yards, including a 20-yarder.
Offseason factor: Let’s go over Beathard’s spring game (the one at Kinnick): He completed 10 of 20 for 110 yards and TD. He led two scoring drives for 10 points, but the TD pass was all running back Jordan Canzeri who, with a great block from WR Jacob Hillyer, took a short pass 46 yards for a score.
Beathard was clearly the No. 3 with who went in and when and how the QB order was drawn up. But his performance definitely kept him in the race. You get the sense that Jake Rudock and Cody Sokol are one tier and then Beathard, but no door is closed, not yet. Beathard’s natural skills are apparent. He is the only one of the three QBs who didn’t regularly run Iowa’s offense last season. That’s also apparent. Still, go back and watch the Iowa spring game no BTN (if it’s still out there anywhere, I’ve got it on the DVR). You can’t watch that and cross Beathard off the list. Not with that arm.
Competition: You know the other two. Rudock probably carries an edge over Sokol going into the fall. At some point and maybe several times before the opener on Aug. 31, you’ll hear Ferentz reference the 1987 QB competition between Dan McGwire, Tom Poholsky and this darkhorse contender kind of guy named Chuck Hartlieb. You can see why that would be burned in Ferentz’s memory. No. 1 went to No. 3 the week before Iowa opened the Big Ten season. That was Hartlieb, by the way. He threw two picks against Kansas State and was demoted before Iowa opened the Big Ten season.
Eventually, Hartlieb emerged and had the No. 3 season in Iowa QB history. The next year, he had the No. 1 season for an Iowa QB — 3,738 yards, 62.6 completion percentage and 17 TDs.
That’s probably why you hear that from Ferentz — a lot. It doesn’t give you much of a clue, though, on what’s going to happen in 2013.
Why No. 29?: If Beathard ends up the No. 3, he probably won’t see a lot of snaps. He might early, but every indication from Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis is that they want one guy to win and hold the job. So, that’s why No. 29. If Beathard ends up No. 1, I’m sure someone will remind me that I had him No. 29.
Outlook: Beathard is in the race. What does he need to do to win it? 1) If he shows implacable leadership in the ugly sweaty August camp, he can win teammates over. That could very well be a factor in the final decision. 2) You can make an argument that Beathard has the strongest arm. That’s between him and Sokol. He’ll need to leverage that, and both of them will be playing against Rudock’s strength, which is brains and decision making.