The Register's Chad Leistikow and Rick Brown preview the Hawkeyes' game against Illinois.
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Ike Boettger and C.J. Beathard get together on occasion and talk shop.
“We talk about the fact that I used to play quarterback,” Boettger said. “But those days are long gone now.”
Instead of throwing passes, one of Boettger’s jobs now is to make sure Beathard has time to air it out. Boettger is in his first season as Iowa’s starting right offensive tackle. One look at his 6-foot-6, 300-pound frame tells you he’s an ex-quarterback. He has another former quarterback to thank for that.
Brandon Scherff played quarterback at Denison High School as a sophomore before becoming a consensus all-American left offensive tackle for the Hawkeyes. During the summer of 2014, Scherff took Boettger under his wing. He taught him the nuances of the position, and the value of eating more than three meals a day.
Boettger started at quarterback for Cedar Falls High School as a junior, throwing for 750 yards and nine touchdowns. He figured that was his future position when he attended a camp at Iowa the summer before his senior season.
“I came to the camp as a quarterback, just to work on my fundamentals and learn some stuff,” Boettger said.
Quarterbacks weren’t required to bring shoulder pads to the camp. But the coaches found him some and asked him to take a crack at blocking. It didn’t go well. There was another camp the next week, and Boettger was invited back. Bring your shoulder pads with you, he was told. Shortly after, Iowa offered a scholarship. Not as a quarterback, but as a tight end or offensive lineman.
Boettger played some quarterback for the Tigers as a senior, but spent most of his time at tight end and defensive end. As soon as his prep career ended, so did his days at quarterback. After redshirting as a true freshman in 2013, Boettger saw limited duty in eight games for Iowa in 2014. That included a late-season 26-24 loss to Wisconsin, when he started as a second tight end.
“It was a less-than-spectacular initiation to college football, just put it that way,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “You know, he missed the snap count a fair portion of the time during that game. Really, his first step was less than adequate.”
When Boettger played against the Badgers again, in last week’s 10-6 victory, Ferentz had a much more positive report card.
“He’s a work in progress right now, but he’s off to a really good start,” Ferentz said. “We’re really happy for him, but it’s not a huge surprise, just because he works hard. He’s a tremendous young guy and he’s got a good skill set, too. So he’s going to be a really good football player for us.”
Boettger still keeps in touch with Scherff, now a rookie season with the Washington Redskins.
“It’s hardly about Xs and Os,” Boettger said. “It’s about life, how he’s doing, how I’m doing and how the team is doing. He likes to stay connected.”
Beathard got sacked five times at Wisconsin, completing just nine of 21 passes for 77 yards.
“We’ve got to protect him better,” Boettger said. “Teams are going to bring a lot of pressure to try and get to him because they know what he can do if he sits back there and has time.”
And as a former quarterback, Boettger wants to make sure time is on Beathard’s side.