Brown: Beathard gets depth-chart nod, but is QB story over?

Rick Brown

IOWA CITY, Ia. -- Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz called it a starting point, but it feels more significant than that.

C.J. Beathard is listed as the Hawkeyes' starting quarterback over Jake Rudock on a depth chart released 30 minutes before the tipoff of Thursday's Iowa-Michigan State basketball game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The release of a depth chart, so soon after a season, is not a common practice under Ferentz.

Why now?

In a release, Ferentz said, "After spending several days as a staff evaluating our 2014 season and our returning roster, we have established a two-deep depth chart that will serve as a starting point when the team returns to campus. As always, this is only a starting point and we anticipate and expect healthy competition at all positions between now and September as we prepare for the 2015 season."

Ferentz has scheduled a Wednesday news conference to discuss "2014 and 2015 football topics."

C.J. Beathard completed 13 of 23 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns in the TaxSlayer Bowl. He also rushed for 82 yards on eight carries.

Those words hint at other changes. On the coaching staff, perhaps? One can only speculate after an underachieving 7-6 season and a poor performance in a 45-28 loss to Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl a week ago.

Second-semester classes start Jan. 20. Spring ball starts in mid-March, with a spring game in late April. A lot can change between now and then, but this depth chart is more than intriguing.

Although there is plenty to digest on the two-deep, with 10 starting spots vacated by departing seniors, the season's white-hot quarterback topic of discussion dominates this depth chart.

Rudock played a majority of the minutes during the regular season, but Ferentz opened up the competition in bowl preparation. Rudock started against Tennessee, but Beathard took 49 snaps to Rudock's 19.

Beathard completed 13 of 23 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. He ran eight times for 82 yards. He also threw an interception and lost a fumble. Rudock was 2-for-8 passing for 32 yards, and rushed twice for 22 yards.

Neither player was made available to the media after the bowl game, leading to more speculation about their futures. And Thursday's flip of the regular-season script comes after Beathard's father, Casey, floated the idea of a transfer by his son in the leadup to the bowl game.

"He's really hoping he doesn't have to transfer," Casey told the Tennessean newspaper in Nashville on Dec. 22. "I said (to him), "Hopefully, it'll be obvious in this game, one way or another."

Does this mean Beathard, who will be a redshirt junior, is sticking around in Iowa City? Maybe Ferentz will shed some light on that Wednesday. And what does it mean for Rudock, a senior-to-be who has started 25 of the last 26 games over the last two seasons?

Rudock passed for 2,436 yards, with 16 touchdowns and five interceptions. He passed for 2,383 yards, with 18 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, in 2013. But Beathard became the people's choice for several reasons.

One, he rallied the Hawkeyes in the second half of a victory at Pittsburgh. Two, he has a bigger arm and, at least in some circles, more of a playmaker's mentality. And three, the offense under Rudock sputtered for long stretches, even though the issues ran much deeper than at quarterback.

Ferentz said all season he had two good quarterbacks. The playing rotation at the bowl game, and the depth chart, gives credence to his words more than at any time all year.

The real question remains: who will be the starting quarterback in the 2015 season opener in Iowa City against Illinois State?

Will there be an audible? Stay tuned.

Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown