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IOWA CITY, Ia. — He's a slinger, not a singer, and that means C.J. Beathard will be much more comfortable in Kinnick Stadium this Saturday than he was on the previous one.
For one thing, there will be a football in his hand, not a microphone.
“I was more nervous then than games, almost,” the Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback said Tuesday about joining his brother, Tucker, on stage Saturday during a country music concert at Kinnick.
“Tucker was messing with me. He was saying, ‘When you get up there, I’m just going to hand you the mic.’ I was like, ‘Dude, do not do that. If you do that, I’m not going to do anything.’ ”
C.J. Beathard, a senior who is used to being in the spotlight on Saturdays, kept the microphone at a distance.
“The more of his voice you could hear, the better, so I tried to stay away a little bit,” C.J. said.
Iowa fans will see a more familiar C.J. Beathard this Saturday when the No. 15 Hawkeyes open their season with a 2:30 p.m. game against Miami of Ohio (ESPNU). He may be wearing a brace on his left knee, but it will just be as a precaution, he said. He still plans to run when that’s the best chance for the Hawkeyes to gain yards.
“I’m going to go through my progressions, but if the protection breaks down and I have to run it, no doubt I’m going to run it and feel fine doing it,” Beathard said.
That would be a welcome sight for his coaches and teammates. Beathard gimped his way through 12 games last season after suffering a groin tear in a Week 3 win over Pittsburgh. This summer, the alarm bells sounded again when Beathard arrived for the team’s Kids Day scrimmage with the brace on his knee, the result of a bruise suffered during a practice session.
“I might be wearing that probably for the rest of the season,” Beathard told reporters Tuesday. “My knee feels great — just so it doesn’t happen again.”
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After that injury scare, Hawkeye defenders were kept as far away from Beathard as he was from Tucker’s microphone last Saturday. Then, fans filled Kinnick stadium to hear Tucker Beathard sing. From now on, they’ll be in attendance hoping to see C.J. do what he does best, which is throw the football — or run with it — or throw it on the run.
His offensive linemen are well aware of Beathard’s value, and it’s their job to try to keep that spring in his step.
“C.J.’s going to be his own man. He’s going to step in and make that cut for another 20 yards. He’s going to be his own player, and we respect that out of him,” offensive tackle Cole Croston said.
“For us, as an offensive line, we hate seeing him hit, but we love seeing him make those plays because it energizes the whole offense.”
Beathard reiterated that he plans to be smarter this fall about when to take on opposing defenders and when to hit the turf. And when he does slide, it’s more likely to be feet-first, as unnatural as that feels to him. His offensive coordinator, Greg Davis, has even instituted a new drill to try to get Beathard — who has long slid headfirst after breaking a hip as a child in a baseball game — to practice the proper football technique.
Beathard said those drills are not his favorite, but he concedes their value.
“If I can avoid the big hits, I think it will help me in the long run,” he said.
His head coach, Kirk Ferentz was even more pointed, urging his quarterback to show more discretion and less valor. Ferentz joked that the presence of Tucker Beathard, a once-promising baseball player, may have helped his older brother.
“I know Tucker was a really good baseball player. Maybe they worked over this weekend on it,” Ferentz said. "He's got some of the ugliest slides I've seen since I've gotten into coaching, that's for sure, so hopefully he'll do a little better job on that.
“We don't need him to be the toughest guy on the team.”
It’s a fine line, though, for a quarterback whose effectiveness hinges on his legs almost as much as his arm.
“When he does come out of the pocket, we're not going to discourage him from that. That's one of the reasons he's a good player,” Ferentz said. “Not only can he run or will run, but he'll also break the pocket and throw the ball, too, which is really tough to defend. We're not going to try to control that.”
In other words, opponents should brace themselves just as Beathard has braced himself. Fans, too, for that matter.
Beathard is going to run, even though running brings an added risk of injury. It sounds like a country song.
“If it’s critical and we need to get the extra yards, you know I’m going to go and get those extra yards,” Beathard said.