It’s C.J. Beathard’s time to shine in Iowa City.
Not long after the calendar flipped to 2015, Kirk Ferentz wanted to make it known that Beathard was the Hawkeyes’ starting quarterback. This after two years of tabbing Jake Rudock over Beathard, watching the Iowa offense stay serviceable but unexciting and hearing fans clamor for Beathard to take over the job.
In January, through the release of a strange wintertime depth chart, Ferentz declared Beathard “the guy” and sent Rudock packing for Michigan.
“You know, it wasn't an easy decision by any standard, and it hasn't been for a couple years,” Ferentz said earlier this month during the team’s media day. “We've talked a lot about it and looked at it and looked at the information that was in front of us, but things change. That's one thing about life and that's one thing about sports, certainly no two days are the same and no team is the same the next day. There was a consensus that we thought it was the best thing to do, and I think there's a stronger consensus right now that we did the right thing.”
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Rudock beat Beathard out for the starting job ahead of last season, keeping the job he’d won the season before. And through much of 2014, Rudock stayed on the field while Beathard mostly stuck to the sideline. Beathard did get action, most notably leading a second-half comeback against Pitt and playing the Big Ten opener against Purdue while Rudock recovered from injury.
But under Rudock’s guidance, Iowa again stumbled to a mediocre finish, this time a 7-5 mark in the regular season, keeping the unfortunate streak of not winning more than eight games since that 2010 Orange Bowl win intact. After his father made comments about a potential transfer, Beathard got significantly more action in the Hawkeyes’ blowout TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Tennessee. Shortly thereafter, Beathard was announced as the 2015 starter and Rudock transferred to play for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan.
Here’s some of that data Ferentz & Co. used to make this decision: Rudock completed 61.7 percent of his 345 attempts for 2,436 yards and 16 touchdowns with five interceptions, and Beathard completed 56.5 percent of his 92 throws for 645 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. Obviously in-game stats weren't the only factor.
Bottom line is that Beathard now has the reins of the Iowa offense, and it’s time to show what he can do.
“The way he's grown, the way he's accepted being a leader, it's very, very clear,” Ferentz said. “He's just a totally different guy. His demeanor is different, and he's a much more mature guy and he's accepted the responsibility. When you play quarterback, there's a lot of responsibility that goes with it. I think he's embraced it. He's excited about it.”
But is Beathard going to be the QB that Iowa fans have believed will magically turn things around on the offensive side of the ball?
Rudock led an inconsistent passing attack on a team that despite having two of the best offensive linemen in the country couldn’t establish a consistent rushing attack. Those key players — the quarterback, the running back and those two linemen — are all gone. Beathard has a few solid pass catchers to work with. But it might pan out that Beathard is going to have the offense’s fortunes almost completely on his shoulders. That’s a lot of pressure for his first time out as a full-time starter.
It’s probably why Ferentz didn’t promise too much change in the Hawkeyes’ offensive attack.
“It's not necessarily going to look all that different,” Ferentz said. “Quarterback obviously is a key position and every player brings his own personality. The thing I'd offer up is there's a lot of different ways to be successful and a lot of different styles of quarterbacking. We've seen that here in 15 years to be successful. The bottom line is he's got to play within his skill set and his personality. The big question mark always where is he at in terms of preparation, and the maturity that is required when you touch the ball every play. We were confident in January that he was ready to accept that.”
Regardless of the outcome, Beathard and those clamoring for him to get the starting job have gotten what they wanted. Beathard’s the starter. Now he has to do something with it.