Hawkeye beat writers Rick Brown and Chad Leistikow discuss Wednesday's press conference with Kirk Ferentz and Gary Barta.
IOWA CITY, Ia. – When it comes to the well-documented quarterback quandary at Iowa, Kirk Ferentz made an acknowledgment Wednesday many C.J. Beathard supporters had been waiting for months, or longer, to hear.
Beathard at gives the Hawkeye football program its best chance to win.
"I think we're all in agreement that the thing (that) gives us a best chance to move forward right now," Ferentz said during a 37-minute news conference at the new Football Operations Center, "is to give C.J. the chance to be the starting quarterback."
That statement validated the unprecedented-at-Iowa Jan. 8 release of a depth chart – six days after the 45-28 TaxSlayer Bowl loss to Tennessee in Jacksonville, Fla., sent Iowa to a finishing 7-6 record.
"That's fair to say. I'm not totally tone-deaf," Ferentz said of the odd timing. "Coming out of the last two ballgames in particular were disappointing for all of us. I know the fans feel that way.
"We met very intensively when we got back from Jacksonville, as a staff. I thought we had a great discussion, a candid discussion. And I thought it was really important for us to set a starting point."
That led to Ferentz's decision – supported by athletic director Gary Barta – to pre-emptively release a 2015 depth chart that had junior-to-be Beathard on the No. 1 line for the first time, and senior-to-be Jake Rudock – who started 25 of Iowa's last 26 games – at No. 2.
Ferentz knew what was out there. Even though Iowa re-opened the quarterback competition after Rudock's inconsistent outing in a 37-34 season-ending overtime loss to Nebraska, Beathard and his father, Casey, had said in late-December interviews with their home-state newspaper that C.J. would determine after the bowl game whether he would transfer.
"I thought it was more important to get it out, make it public as fast as possible," Ferentz said of the depth chart. "There are certain things out there, obviously, that have been out there floating around. I wanted to get those things addressed. That way we can all move forward here when the players get back on Tuesday."
Ferentz said Wednesday (six days before second-semester classes resume) that two players asked for and were granted transfer releases – offensive lineman Colin Goebel and linebacker Reggie Spearman.
He pointed out that neither quarterback had asked for such releases, but didn't close the window to the prospect of either looking elsewhere.
"I'm hopeful that they will be," Ferentz said. "I've talked to both guys. That's their plan, as of last time we talked. That can be a fluid process."
When Ferentz and the quarterbacks spoke, he wouldn't say. Their reactions, he wouldn't say.
"That's between a player and a coach," he said.
So what changed, from Nebraska to bowl game to Jan. 8?
Basically, Beathard just finally took the lead in what had – in Ferentz's words – always been a tight quarterback battle. Beathard received 49 snaps to Rudock's 19 in the TaxSlayer Bowl and led Iowa to three of its four touchdowns.
Beathard finished that game 13-for-23 for 145 yards and two scores (with two turnovers), along with 82 rushing yards on eight carries. Rudock was 2-for-8 for 32 yards.
"I told you nobody really improved more than C.J. Beathard last spring," Ferentz said. "But I was quick to add after that point that Jake Rudock improved an awful lot as well. I could say the same thing in August. Both players improved, and as I said in August, we had confidence we could win with both guys.
"So we went through the season. It's well documented that we opened things up again in December, and watched both guys. Again, I think both guys grew."
Then the post-Jacksonville evaluation. Then, the depth chart.
And now, it's C.J.'s job to lose. If all goes well, he's got a chance to lead the Hawkeye program through the 2016 season.
"We've got high hopes for C.J.," Ferentz said. "We have high hopes for Jake Rudock."