Greg Davis has been a college football coach for 38 years and has mentored quarterbacks such as Gary Kubiak, Vince Young and Colt McCoy.
Yet Iowa’s offensive coordinator made a bold pronouncement about Hawkeye senior C.J. Beathard.
“I think he has a chance to be the best I’ve ever coached,” Davis said Wednesday on KxNO’s “Hawk Central” program. “He’s got a wonderful feel for the game. We give him a lot of flexibility. He’s fixing to get a lot more flexibility because we feel like he’s ready to handle that and do a lot more at the line of scrimmage.”
Davis, who began his college coaching career as a Texas A&M assistant in 1978 and was offensive coordinator at Texas for 13 seasons before coming to Iowa, added that Beathard must stay healthy to reach that potential. As a junior, Beathard passed for 2,809 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 237 yards and six more scores as Iowa went 12-2. But he did that while playing the final 12 games with nagging hip and groin injuries, necessitating offseason sports hernia surgery.
Davis admitted Wednesday that Beathard's injuries altered the game plan as the season went on. Some weeks, Beathard was unable to practice more than once leading up to kickoff. The hope is that a healthy Beathard can be much more dangerous as a scrambler this fall, extending plays and picking up large chunks of yardage when openings emerge.
“We want to be smart. But at the same time, football’s a collision sport, it’s a violent sport,” Davis said. “I can’t tell you when he got hurt last year. I don’t know when it was. I don’t know that he can tell you when he got hurt. So were we doing something that endangered him? What does that mean, that he just becomes a drop-back quarterback and we never let him scramble or run quarterback draws?
“I think you can be smart about the number of times that you ask him to carry the ball. I think you can be smart about when you ask him to carry the ball.”
Davis also reflected on the decision-making process that led coach Kirk Ferentz to declare Beathard the starter over Jake Rudock shortly after the Hawkeyes were routed 45-28 in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2, 2015.
In the late stages of the 2014 season, Davis noted, every Ferentz news conference opened with a question about who the starting quarterback was going to be and how the snaps would be divided.
“We felt like as an offense it wasn’t fair to the team. That became the topic as opposed to how we were playing,” Davis said. “Going into the bowl game, coach said, ‘Hey, all positions are open.’ ”
That led Davis to deliver a message to Beathard and Rudock that he never had told his quarterbacks before.
“We would alternate by series with one caveat: If you scored you got to go back. That’s the way we played that ballgame,” Davis said.
Once back in Iowa City, Ferentz told his staff they needed to make a definitive decision on who the starter would be and not wait for spring camp.
“The one thing about quarterbacks that you all know, there’s a certain point where if they’re not the guy they leave, because they want to play,” Davis said.
When told that Beathard was the decision, Rudock asked if the competition would still be open. Davis said yes, but …
“You’re going to have to definitely dominate to win the job because (Beathard’s) going in as the starter.”
Rudock opted to transfer to Michigan as Beathard took the reins. The rest could be history, if Davis’s earlier pronouncement is to be believed.
But there’s one thing Beathard has to improve immediately, Davis joked.
“He’s got to learn to slide better. He is the worst slider in the history of quarterbacks,” Davis said. “I’m thinking about some day during fall camp going out to the baseball field and trying to teach him how to slide feet-first.”