IOWA CITY, Ia. Iowa’s two-quarterback attack appears headed to the field this fall.
Count me in.
My endorsement is not a knock on junior Jake Rudock. His cerebral approach and command of the playbook make him the Hawkeyes’ clear No. 1 choice at quarterback. With a season under his belt, I expect Rudock to throw for more yards and fewer interceptions this fall than in 2013.
But getting sophomore C.J. Beathard out there on a limited basis makes perfect sense. Beathard is a better runner with a stronger arm. He gives the Hawkeyes more options and will, in theory, keep defenses off balance.
“If we can make it a little bit more difficult for an opponent to prepare for us,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said, “that could be a really good thing.”
But a big question remains: How will it work?
“I don’t know how it’s going to work,” offensive coordinator Greg Davis said Monday at media day. “Because we haven’t sat down and said, ‘It will be the second series of the first quarter, the third series…
“All those things are something we’ll talk about depending on how camp goes.”
Beathard is more of a gunslinger, a caution-to-the-wind wild card. Rudock plays closer to the vest.
Ferentz sees it the same as a team alternating between a power back and a quick, elusive one. Or a baseball pitcher with a fastball, change-up and slider.
“But it’s got to be something we can execute,” Ferentz said.
It’s worth trying, though, since the offense is going to have to carry this team in the early going until five new starters on defense get acclimated.
As recently as 2012, fans screamed with disdain when one quarterback, James Vandenberg, took every snap. Now this.
So what changed in Ferentz’s approach?
Nothing, really. This is not new ground for him. In 1981, when he was in his first season on Hayden Fry’s staff at Iowa, Gordy Bohannon and Pete Gales shared quarterback duties.
And in 2001, Ferentz used both Kyle McCann and Brad Banks. McCann was the starter. Banks saw action in 10 games.
McCann, who respectfully declined an interview request, passed for 2,028 yards and led Iowa to its first winning season (7-5) and bowl game (Alamo Bowl) under Ferentz. Banks, a better runner, attempted 68 passes, threw for 582 yards and ran for 151.
“It was a good way to change the pace of the game and throw defenses off,” said Banks, who a year later was the Heisman Trophy runner-up. “It was definitely something that was effective.”
The challenge to this experiment will be to avoid cooling a hot hand with a pre-packaged script.
“We tried to put Brad in for at least a series a game, and sometimes a series-and-a-half if we could,” Ferentz said. “I think that worked out really well. We had a good offensive football team, so it didn’t disrupt things. Maybe we’ll do something like that this year.”
Beathard played in five games last season. That included the last three games, all in relief, when Rudock was battling injuries.
“It’s cool to think that I could be getting in in certain situations,” Beathard said. “It’s kind of exciting to me, to get in other than when Jake gets injured. But I’m here to try and win the (starting) job.”
Rudock also gives the two-headed plan a thumbs up.
“It’s up to coach, but if it gets the win at the end of the game, I’ll all for it,” Rudock said.
Cutting down Rudock’s minutes could keep him healthier, too.
“We just want to be smart with him,” Davis said. “But we also want to be smart with C.J. If he can help us and gives us a spark in a game, we’re not going to hesitate to play him.”
Come this fall, it looks like we’ll find out if two heads are better than one.
Hawkeye columnist Rick Brown is a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football