IOWA CITY, Ia. — Quarterback C.J. Beathard created a buzz with his arm and his feet Saturday during Iowa’s spring football game at Kinnick Stadium.
“I think he had a good day, and a good spring,” Jake Rudock said.
A year ago, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz didn’t really know if he had a Big Ten-level quarterback on his roster. Now he’s got two. That might be the biggest take out of Saturday’s scrimmage, before an estimated crowd of 20,400.
Rudock started all 13 games last season, while Beathard played five games in relief. Rudock, who has a better grasp of the offense, is still No. 1. But Beathard clearly had the more productive day Saturday.
“It’s been a good, healthy competition,” Ferentz said. “I feel very fortunate to have two guys we’re very confident in.”
All that speculation that Ferentz was considering using Beathard in selected series next season? True.
“After watching this spring, I think it’s very realistic,” Ferentz said. “Let’s be clear about this. Jake has elevated his performance. I think he’s a better player than he was in January. It’s a good thing. But when you have two players you have a lot of confidence in, it makes sense to play them in a game.”
That is quite an admission for Ferentz, who likes to pick a quarterback and ride him to the finish line. Maybe Mr. Vanilla is turning into Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia right before our eyes.
Other observations from Kinnick Stadium:
Running back depth. Really. The running back position, seemingly jinxed, is now one of the deepest on the team.
Ferentz hinted that oft-injured Mark Weisman might get fewer carries next season to help keep him healthy.
“We’re going to try and keep him fresh so that every game he can play the way he can play,” Ferentz said. “That’s the target.”
Damon Bullock, Jordan Canzeri and LeShun Daniels all carried the rock last season, and redshirt freshmen Akrum Wadley and Jonathan Parker are also in the picture. So is sophomore Barkley Hill, back from knee surgery.
“We’ll try to figure it out as we go,” Ferentz said.
And that jinx? It’s been replaced by depth.
“Unusual,” Ferentz said. “Now we have to develop some in other places.”
Linebacker reboot. Quinton Alston looks like the real deal at middle linebacker, and Reggie Spearman passes the eye test at weakside linebacker. Redshirt freshman Josey Jewell started Saturday in place of Travis Perry at outside linebacker. Perry has been injured and didn’t play Saturday.
“I feel really bad for him, health-wise,” Ferentz said. “It’s been one thing after another. Then he got sick and lost 12 pounds. The whole nine yards. The big thing with him is to try and get him to relax right now, and realize he’s a valuable guy on our football team.”
John Kenny also looked good Saturday as a backup at middle linebacker, getting down the field and making plays. A position of strength last season, linebacker will be a spot to monitor.
“At least we’re making progress, but we’re not there yet,” Ferentz said.
Feet first. Marshall Koehn nicked the upright on his first point-after kick, but he looks like Mike Meyer’s successor as placekicker. Koehn made field goals of 42, 37 and 23 yards. Fomer Iowa and NFL placekicker Nate Kaeding is helping Koehn not only with technique but the mental game as well.
Alden Haffar is Koehn’s chief competition. He missed both his field-goal attempts Saturday. But Ferentz said the job is still up for grabs.
“It depends on which day it is,” Ferentz said. “One day Alden does really well, and Marshall not so much,” Ferentz said. “The next day, it might be a flip.”
Connor Kornbrath’s job as the starting punter is less than secure. Junior college transfer Dillon Kidd turned the ball over much better than Kornbrath, and looked like the better punter Saturday.
Ray is OK. Ray Hamilton looks like the heir apparent to C.J. Fiedorowicz at tight end. He’s not the blocker Fiedorowicz was yet, but he’s got good hands and can make yards after the catch.
On one play, he caught Rudock’s pass on a crossing pattern, crushed free safety Jordan Lomax and went the distance for a 54-yard touchdown with cornerback Maurice Fleming on his back.
Jake Duzey, Henry Krieger-Coble and George Kittle also caught passes Saturday, and throwing to the tight end looks to remain a big part of the offense.
“We’ve got a good group of guys to absorb his loss,” Ferentz said of Fiedorowicz.
Secondary grows. Jordan Lomax started the 2013 opener at right corner, injured a hamstring and struggled to get back on the field. True freshman Desmond King replaced him and had a great season.
“King stepped up and deserved everything he got last year,” Lomax said. “He made a lot of great plays.”
With King anchored at right corner, Lomax has been moved to free safety. His progress will be important to the success of the secondary.
“I think Jordan’s going to be just fine,” Ferentz said.
One unsettled spot remains left corner, where Maurice Fleming, Sean Draper and Greg Mabin are in a three-way battle.
“It’s a dead heat,” Ferentz said. “A lot of positions won’t get decided until well into August camp. There’s work to do, but the potential is there.”
Rick Brown, a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year, covers Hawkeye football and basketball for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.