The junior is THE guy at quarterback for the first time at media day. Chad Leistikow/HawkCentral.com
IOWA CITY, Ia. – During Friday's second practice of fall camp, Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard got to the line of scrimmage and checked into a new play — one that wasn't yet put into the 2015 offense.
"It will be in. He knew it'd be in. But we really hadn't installed it," offensive coordinator Greg Davis said. "He saw a situation, he checked, the receivers handled it. Those are the kind of things that you see that make you say, 'OK, this guy has a grasp of what we're trying to get done.' "
As much as is made about Beathard's cannon right arm and playmaking legs, the thing that thrust him into Saturday's football media-day spotlight was ultimately his ability to grasp the playbook.
Two Augusts ago, Beathard was one of three quarterbacks posing for media-day photo ops, along with Jake Rudock and Cody Sokol.
A year ago, after Sokol left for Louisiana Tech, shutters snapped at Beathard and Rudock, the two men left standing.
Saturday, with Rudock gone to Michigan, was all about Beathard.
After two years of losing out to Rudock for the starting QB job, Beathard is embracing everything that comes with the bright media lights.
"We talked about it today in meetings, talking about all this media out here," Beathard said. "Coach (Kirk) Ferentz said win or lose, there's certain guys that are going to have to do media. That's part of maturing, and that's part of the game."
This is Beathard's team now.
"He's a hungry guy, honestly. Now that he's got this spot, he knows he has to step up," Smith said. "He definitely has a sense of urgency. As you can see, he cut his hair — he's trying to change, trying to be a new man." He spent the offseason building relationships on the team — texting guys like wide receiver Tevaun Smith to meet up for extra workouts.
Smith cracked a smile during the last part of that statement. He was part joking, but indeed there is a symbolism in Beathard cutting his long, blonde locks for charity.
It's a new era for Beathard, a new era for Iowa football. And it wouldn't have happened without Beathard mastering the playbook. Ferentz said the light went on for Beathard late last season.
"It's different for every player," Ferentz said. "I'm not ready to ordain him right now, but I think he's in a good position right now, and we're very confident we'll play well with him as our quarterback."
Beathard said his understanding of the game has grown since his first spring as the No. 1 guy.
"Coming from spring out here, it just continues to get easier and easier," Beathard said. "My knowledge of the game has progressed."
Beathard spoke confidently Saturday. He wouldn't do media interviews if he didn't have to, but he knows it's part of his new job.
He's doing and saying all the right things. In less than a month, in the Sept. 5 opener against Illinois State, it's time to prove it.
"We kind of had a change of culture within the team. All our minds are in the right path," Beathard said. "We're excited to get out there and show people what we can do."