Start or no start, the C.J. Beathard buzz can't be ignored

Andrew Logue

C.J. Beathard (16) played relief duty in Iowa's 38-17 win last November against Nebraska. He has never started a game for the Hawkeyes.

IOWA CITY, Ia. – A media swarm gathered Tuesday around C.J. Beathard, the potential starting quarterback for Iowa's football team.

The guy Beathard may replace, Jake Rudock, did not attend the weekly interview session, in order to receive treatment for an unspecified leg/hip injury.

"We'll play it day by day," coach Kirk Ferentz said of preparations for Saturday's 11 a.m. game at Purdue, "and see what it looks like."

And so, the Hawkeye quarterback debate of 2014 continues: Would you rather have Mr. Cerebral or Mr. Sizzle?

Rudock, a pre-med junior from Weston, Fla., who has completed 61.1 percent of his career passes (289 of 473) for 3,181 yards, 23 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, was listed No. 1 on Monday's depth chart.

Beathard, a long-haired sophomore who grew up outside Nashville, Tenn., and was the catalyst in last week's 24-20 win at Pittsburgh, was expected to work with the first-stringers Tuesday.

What happens if or when Rudock returns is undetermined.

"I guess that just means I'll be getting more reps in practice, which is good," Beathard said. "I'll take as many reps as I can get, and make the best out of them."

This isn't the first time Ferentz has dealt with a quarterback dilemma. Remember Kyle McCann and Brad Banks in 2001, or Jake Christensen and Ricky Stanzi in 2008?

This, however, is a different. There's a contrast in public perception (good, bad or otherwise) with Rudock-Beathard that transcends arm strength.

Rudock won a three-way competition last year, edging out Beathard and current Louisiana Tech quarterback Cody Sokol.

He went on to guide Iowa through an 8-4 regular season in 2013 – after a 4-8 debacle in 2012 -- earning an invitation to the Outback Bowl.

"I thought he kind of took control of things," Ferentz said of Rudock. "Now, we're in a situation… where C.J.'s been able to play, and we were able to discover some good things about him.

"So it's all good."

Rudock's demeanor, reliability and grit (he was hobbled by aching knees last fall), make him a solid leading man for the Hawkeyes.

He just looks like a Ferentz quarterback (keep in mind Drew Tate and Stanzi didn't really let their hair down until after leaving Iowa).

Beathard, meanwhile, has the sort of skills you can't ignore, both as a passer and a runner.

He completed just nine of 27 passes in limited opportunities last season, for a total of 179 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

But there was always a buzz.

When coaches suggested during spring practices they might play both quarterbacks this season, it sent tremors through Hawkeye Nation.

"Most of those axioms are true, and everybody loves the No. 2 guy," Ferentz said. "And I do, too. I'm glad he's on our team."

It seemed like everyone who bleeds black and gold was pleased when Beathard took over in the second half last weekend. He rallied Iowa from a 17-7 halftime deficit, completing seven of eight passes for 98 yards.

"The longer you're here, the more experience you get," Beathard said. "Whether it be in practice or watching film, you become a smarter player.

"You just learn things maybe I wouldn't have known last year."

First glances can be misleading. We won't know the full measure of Beathard's abilities and development until he carries the weight of a starter.

Still, those who know him best will tell you he's more than a ray of sunshine.

"He's real laid-back," tailback Jordan Canzeri said. "He's nice. He's cool. Everyone likes him. He's easy to hang out with.

"He's a hard worker, too. When it's time to get serious, he'll get serious."