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Pat Harty: Beathard working hard, waiting for his chance

[ 0 ] April 13, 2014 |

As the backup quarterback for the Iowa football team, C.J. Beathard has one of the best and worst jobs on the team.

It’s the best because the backup quarterback can be the most popular player on campus, let alone the football team — more so when the starter struggles.

It’s the worst because you’re so close to having the marquee position on the team and the spotlight that comes with it.

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C.J. Beathard directs a play on Saturday during the Iowa Hawkeyes football team practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines.(Bryon Houlgrave/The Register)

 

Big Ten quarterbacks, including the reserves, and even the walk-ons, share one thing in common: they were all stars in high school.

What Beathard accomplished as an all-state quarterback in Tennessee might have earned his spot on the Iowa roster, but it means nothing as Jake Rudock’s backup in college.

“You really do learn a lot,” Beathard said after Saturday’s open practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines “It’s crazy when you come out of high school, you’re like the big guy, and then you go to college and you’re back at the bottom and you just really have to work your way back up.

“It’s humbling.”

Not to put words in Beathard’s mouth, but it’s also probably frustrating, boring and sad at times being the backup quarterback.

The challenge is to withstand all those emotions and always be ready.

Rudock was hobbled by a knee injury in the second half of last season, which led to some playing time for Beathard. Beathard flashed at times with his powerful right arm and his willingness to throw down field, but still only completed 9-of-27 passes for 179 yards and one touchdown as a redshirt freshman.

Beathard is working this spring on becoming a more patient quarterback, rather than the gunslinger who had a tendency to force throws down field last season.

“That was one thing last year and in summer camp last year, I was always wanting to take the big shot down field, when there might be an open ball underneath,” Beathard said. “That’s one thing I’ve gotten better at this year.”

It must be hard for Beathard to resist the temptation to always want to make a big play to help his cause and to impress the coaches.

It’d be easier for Beathard to bide his time as the backup if he and Rudock were separated by two or three years of eligibility instead of just one year. Beathard is faced with the prospect of being the starter at Iowa for just the 2016 season, and that’s assuming he withstands the players behind him on the depth chart.

Beathard can’t look at it that way, though. He needs to look at each practice this spring and next fall as a chance to narrow the gap and to earn coach Kirk Ferentz’s trust.

Beathard needs stay motivated and trust that the Iowa coaches are using who they believe is their best option at quarterback.

It’s not a situation where Beathard is told on a regular basis whether he is gaining or losing ground on Rudock, who made a strong case for being the starter last season with his performance.

“You can’t really tell that kind of stuff,” said Beathard, who finished runner-up for the Mr. Football Award as a high school senior in Tennessee “I just go into every practice with the same mindset and work my hardest and do the best that I can do.”

Beathard’s hair, which stretches well beyond his shoulders in true Allman Brothers fashion, is proof that he marches to the beat of his own drummer. Every quarterback brings his own style and personality to the position, and Beathard certainly has his own.

Beathard comes from a football family. His grandfather, Bobby Beathard, was a long-time NFL general manager. It’s reasonable to assume that C.J. has been taught how to handle challenges and how to deal with situations that aren’t ideal.

Nobody comes to college to be the backup quarterback. But somebody has to play that role. And for now, Beathard is that somebody for Iowa, and could be for two more seasons.

You hope that his opportunity, if it comes in the next two seasons, won’t be as a result of Rudock being injured. That would cheapen the promotion and would be unfair and cruel to Rudock.

Ferentz has been clear since the start of last season that Rudock is Iowa’s best option at quarterback. Nothing has changed this spring.

Beathard isn’t being ignored, though.

It was Beathard instead of Rudock who was made available to the media after Saturday’s open practice. That might have bothered some members of the media, but it shows that Beathard is considered a key piece to the offensive puzzle, even as a backup.

It’s cliché to say that Beathard is just one injury away from having the most important role on the team, but it’s also true.

Beathard doesn’t have the constant pressure that comes with being the starting quarterback, but he does have the constant desire of wanting to play. It’s a tough act to balance.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Pat Harty: Columnist Pat Harty has been covering the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Press-Citizen since 1991. Originally from Des Moines, he currently writes columns and covers Hawkeye men's basketball for Hawk Central. View author profile.

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