A brand new season is almost upon us as we look forward to the 2015 version of Iowa Hawkeyes football. For the next several days, Hawkeye Insider will be giving a preview of what to watch for, what to expect, and a prediction on performance from each position group on the team.
Today, we cast our eyes on the quarterbacks.
C.J. Beathard has been given the keys to the machine, being named the uncontested starter for Iowa this upcoming season. He has started games in the past, but had to share first-team reps with former Hawkeye Jake Rudock.
"(I have) more ownership of the team," he said. "I put it on myself to be a leader of this offense. That's what I'll do."
Beathard has three proven receivers returning at the wideout position in Tevaun Smith, Jacob Hillyer, and Matt VandeBerg. At tight end, George Kittle has emerged in practice and they still are hoping to get Jake Duzey back during the season. The running back duties seem to be split between LeShun Daniels. and Jordan Canzeri, with Daniels being listed as the starter.
He has some proven weapons returning, but Beathard's success could hinge on the offensive line. They're breaking in two new starters at the tackle spots, and him being able to remain upright will determine how many chances he can take down the field. He has the arm strength to do so.
THE PRIMARY BACKUP
The primary backup for starter C.J. Beathard at quarterback this year will be Michigan native Tyler Wiegers. He has no starting experience, so he's still a bit of a work in progress but has made strides. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis isn't as comfortable with his top two guys as he was a year ago.
"I went to sleep last year feeling really good that I had two guys," he shared about his quarterback group. "I'm not sleeping as well at night this year. I think I will but right now I'm not."
The biggest step for Wiegers is learning the playbook, and all the intricacies of it. The speed of the game was overwhelming to him at first, but he's beginning to notice a change.
"Yeah, the game has slowed down (for me)," he noted. "Getting all those reps in the Spring helped in getting a lot more comfortable coming into camp. The game has slowed down a bit. I obviously have stuff to work on so I'm trying to do that. I feel good."
Wiegers is a heartbeat from entering the game now so his development is critical. There's been some positive signs this Fall, but there's been some learning experiences as well. He showed great accuracy, pocket awareness and presence, and an understanding of the offense during the scrimmage but also had moments he got himself into some trouble, including throwing a pick-six to cornerback Sean Draper.
All in all, I think the Hawkeyes may not have the two proven quarterbacks they did a year ago, but Wiegers is no slouch and has shown the ability to lead the offense if asked to. However, another year of not being thrusted into the spotlight would be benefiical for him.
Iowa has two new quarterbacks in fall camp this year in true freshmen Ryan Boyle and Drew Cook. They'll need to identify a third quarterback before the opener, but in the scrimmage last weekend Ryan Boyle was the first thrown into action. That's not necessarily an indication of which way the coaching staff is leaning, though.
"Yeah, it's too early to tell," head coach Kirk Ferentz stated about who would be the third string signal caller for the season. "They're both working at it. Their heads are both spinning I'm sure. They're both doing a real good job. They're quality guys."
I expect Ryan Boyle to be placed ahead of Drew Cook on the depth chart. He was the first of the two to play in the scrimmage inside Kinnick Stadium, and he fared better, too. Both were far less than spectacular in their performance, but Boyle showed more promise. There's also still a possibility that Cook could move to another position, specifically tight end.
It's Beathard's show. He's the most experienced and the most ready for primetime. He has the potential to have a lot of success due to his great understanding of the game, the offense, and what defenses are trying to do coverage-wise. He has great command of the huddle, and the team believes in him. Assuming he gets help around him, with the receivers and protection from the offensive line, he's more than capable to thrive.