Brown: It's C.J. Beathard's turn in the fishbowl

Rick Brown
Iowa quarterback CJ Beathard takes a snap during practice on Saturday, April 11, 2015, at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines, Iowa.

There was a noticeable buzz every time C.J. Beathard threw a pass Saturday at Valley Stadium. Cheers when he completed a pass. Groans when he didn't. This is your life, C.J. Enjoy the fishbowl.

Beathard can expect a world of attention every time he takes the field, now that he's replaced Jake Rudock as Iowa's starting quarterback. He'll be running an offense that has a lot of growing to do, judging by Saturday's open scrimmage.

"Now he has free reign here, if you will, and I think that's encouraged him to step forward a little bit as a leader, which is something a quarterback has to do," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Iowa had quality play at quarterback the previous two seasons, Ferentz said. And he expects nothing to change. Rudock started 25 of the last 26 games for Iowa at quarterback. But when Ferentz picked Beathard to man the ship a few days after the TaxSlayer Bowl, Rudock found greener pastures at Michigan.

"I'm glad it worked out for him," Ferentz said. "And in a perfect world, we'll play against each other once. That that will be a win-win situation for both of us."

That would come in the Big Ten Championship game, for those of you who dream big. Really big. On Saturday, the offense wasn't exactly a yard-chewing machine against a No. 1 Hawkeye defense that got carved up by Tennessee the last time we saw them.

But it's early. Starting offensive tackles Boone Myers and Ike Boettger, big on potential but short on experience, will be asked to replace consensus all-American and Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff and Andrew Donnal.

Austin Blythe is back at center, anchoring a line under construction, after finishing last season at guard. He'll be snapping it to a new quarterback. A guy ready for his turn in the spotlight.

"That's just who C.J. is, and what his personality is," Blythe said.

Iowa ran the ball 514 times and passed it 437 times in 2014. Even though Ferentz preaches balance, this offense feels different. It feels like the passing game will play an even bigger role with Beathard's live arm.

"It definitely changes things," wide receiver Jacob Hillyer said. "We have a strong arm back there, and he can definitely throw the ball downfield. As receivers, we love that."

Iowa's running game looks to be an upgrade, too, if Myers and Boettger continue to show the improvement Ferentz has seen from them since last August. Going against defensive ends Drew Ott and Nate Meier this spring, Ferentz said his newbies have started to win a few battles.

Saturday was the first time backs LeShun Daniels and Jordan Canzeri have carried the ball in live action this spring. They appear better suited to hit the hole before it closes.

Building depth is a necessity going forward. That includes at quarterback, where Tyler Wiegers backs up Beathard. Wiegers, a freshman, showed Saturday he's got some growing to do.

"Tyler needs every snap right now," Ferentz said.

Last season was a luxury, two quarterbacks on almost the same line. That doesn't happen very often, at Iowa or anywhere. Ferentz doesn't plan to put a safety net around Beathard, even though Wiegers has never taken a college snap.

"You can't play scared, you've got to go play," Ferentz said. "But we do need to play C.J. smart. That's true of any quarterback. You don't want them running smack into linebackers."

Especially now, on a team in search of depth at nearly every position.