Brown: Look for Beathard to add twist to Iowa's offense in 2015

Rick Brown

Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback C.J. Beathard (16) calls an audible in the third quarter of the 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl against the Tennessee Volunteers at EverBank Field. The Tennessee Volunteers beat the Iowa Hawkeyes 45-28.

IOWA CITY, Ia. -- Part of Iowa's offense will remain status quo when the football is snapped in 2015. But look for quarterback C.J. Beathard to bring a new twist to plain vanilla.

"We have done a few things different in the passing game that we think fit C.J. in terms of trying to stretch the field," offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Greg Davis said Wednesday. "We'll incorporate a little bit using his legs because he has the ability to run."

No one will mistake Iowa for Oregon when the ball is snapped in 2015. But Holy Mariota, this sounds like a breath of a fresh air for an offense that didn't move the ball consistently last season.

Before we move forward, we have to go back to January. A few days after a humbling loss to Tennessee in the Taxslayer Bowl. That's when Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz let Beathard know he would be Iowa's No. 1 quarterback, replacing Jake Rudock.

Davis had not spoken to members of the media about this quarterback flip, and the reasons why, until Wednesday.

"It wasn't like an epiphany," Davis said.

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The coaches told Beathard and Rudock that the job was up for grabs again in workouts leading up to the bowl game. A few days before the Tennessee game, Davis told reporters that both quarterbacks would play. Rudock started for the 25th time in 26 games. But Beathard took 49 snaps to 19 for Rudock.

"After the bowl game we decided we needed to clear the air, so to speak," Davis said. "With that in mind, we sat down as a staff and decided to move in the direction we have."

Davis said that picking one player over another is never as easy as 1-2-3.

"Sometimes, it's what does your gut say?" Davis said.

Beathard's superior arm strength was never in issue. But he lagged behind Rudock in one important part of the game — changing plays at the line of scrimmage. Beathard's growth in that area, more than his arm strength, is likely the reason he's now the starter.

"He's extremely bright," Davis said. "And I don't think we'll lose anything there in terms of getting in and out of plays and those kinds of things."

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The bottom line is that the coaches felt Beathard gave the Hawkeyes the best chance to win — with his arm, his legs, and now, his ability to get his team in the right play.

Beathard should help this offense in a fourth way, too. The threat of the deep ball should create opportunity for a running game that averaged just 163.1 yards a game last season.

"I do think the ability to fake the hard ball run in there and challenge deep will help slow the support down a little bit," Davis said.

Davis knocked on wood, literally, when discussing the running backs and the fact that the stable is fuller than it was in his first three seasons on the staff. He raved about a slimmed down LeShun Daniels, and the added fluidity of his cuts. Jordan Canzeri is healthy. Akrum Wadley is doing better with ball security. Derrick Mitchell has emerged as a third-down back.

With the exception of Tevaun Smith, Jacob Hillyer and Matt VandeBerg, no other wide receiver has stepped up to make it a quartet at wide receiver. That is problematic.

But if stretching the field becomes more than football talk, and Beathard can check out of a play destined for disaster, this might be a very interesting season.