IOWA CITY - Through it all, Nate Wieland still felt this moment would arrive.
Last year, a puzzling leg injury forced the Iowa City High quarterback to miss the last seven games of a football season in which his teammates won two playoff co ... »
IOWA CITY — Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard was asked if the rumor was true that he has a prosthetic leg. He was asked that. It’s been that kind of wild and woolly week out there on Hawkeye internet.
“Clearly, I don’t have a prosthetic leg on right now,” Beathard said after Iowa’s open scrimmage Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.
In an early portion of the interview, Beathard, who wasn’t able to play in the spring game because he injured a shoulder after taking a hit in practice, was asked if he knew about Evel Knievel. He said he did know about the motorcycle stunt daredevil from the 1970s and, no, he didn’t plan on jumping buses and sharks on a Harley.
It’s OK, everyone Iowa can laugh about it now. It’ll be a nervous laugh, one of those kinds where there might be tears on the inside.
Beathard, a returning all-Big Ten quarterback and the centerpiece of Iowa’s 2016 offense, did suffer a sprained left knee this week. On Tuesday, a linebacker blitzed, running back LeShun Daniels picked him up and the linebacker rolled onto Beathard’s knee.
Beathard didn’t give up the linebacker’s name. Probably a good idea, one of those good, leader-type of decisions to protect the innocent.
Beathard missed two days and three practices. He returned with his knee braced for Saturday’s scrimmage — played in front of just less than 12,000 people — and saw action in two series.
Quarterbacks wear red jerseys in practice to signify they are not to be hit. That’s the theory with the red jersey, anyway. And yet, here’s Beathard again dinged up after a hit in practice. How does this keep happening?
“That’s a good question,” wide receiver Matt VandeBerg said.
Well, football has hitting in it. Beathard readily acknowledged that. It’s part of being in the game. Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said it’s something his staff has studied, including research into NFL practices.
“Everybody at every level has that issue and concern,” said Ferentz, who also mentioned that if Saturday were a game, Beathard would’ve been full speed and playing. “At the end of the day, you still have to practice hard. You can’t have a guy in a bubble back there. You have to cross the street, right? You can’t live without crossing a street.”
For the record, Beathard did wear a heavy brace in camp last season, but he ditched it before the season. He doesn’t like this one, either, and Saturday might be its only appearance, at least if he has his way.
After a week of rumor and nuttiness, did Beathard, who completed 5 of 11 for 32 yards and an interception, feel compelled to come out and calm the fan base with an appearance? No. He wanted the practice. He said he needs the practice.
“If this was two days ago, I would’ve come out here in street clothes,” said Beathard, who tried to split coverage on a 44-yard pass but was picked off by sophomore cornerback Joshua Jackson. “I was ready to practice and do stuff.”
Speaking of practicing and doing stuff, there was a long list of Hawkeyes starters who weren’t ready for that Saturday. Tight end George Kittle (undisclosed) Linebacker Ben Niemann (undisclosed), cornerback Greg Mabin (undisclosed), O-lineman Sean Welsh (undisclosed) and wide receiver Jay Scheel (hamstring) were the most prominent who sat out.
“It’s probably a bigger group than we’d like to have,” Ferentz said about injuries.
Center and tight end were left jumbled for Saturday, which was Iowa’s 12th practice in a stretch of 10 consecutive days of it. Welsh, a junior and two-year starter at guard, moved to center in the spring after sophomore James Daniels had knee surgery. Daniels is now back at center. The position is unsettled for now.
“We’ll keep an open mind,” Ferentz said. “(Welsh) will be one of the five (starters). I’m not sure if he’ll be guard or center and vice versa with James. Both of those guys will be starting and we’ll just play it as we go.”
Kittle wasn’t in uniform, but should be back this week. Junior Jon Wisnieski suffered a sprained left knee and will miss time. That left junior walk-on Peter Pekar and redshirt freshmen Nate Vejvoda and Nate Wieting. True freshman T.J. Hockenson caught three passes for 35 yards. Hockenson and fellow tight end Noah Fant could be among maybe a half dozen true freshmen who play this season.
“We’re wide open,” Ferentz said (probably the theme for the day, no?). “. . . We’ll keep an open mind at all positions basically no matter if a guys is a first-year freshman or a third-year guy who hasn’t played much.”
Running backs LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley were limited to just a few touches apiece, so true freshmen Toks Akinribade and Toren Young got long looks. Akinribade, of Brownsburg, Ind., had 72 yards on 17 carries. Young, from Madison, Wis., had a team-high 73 yards on 12 carries. Both backs scored touchdowns in goal-line drills (Akinribade from 7 yards; Young from 6).
True freshman quarterback Nathan Stanley threw Saturday’s lone TD pass, a 39-yarder to redshirt freshman wide receiver Emmanuel Ogwo, who got a step behind true freshman cornerback Cedric Boswell.
Stanley, who completed 6 of 16 for 55 yards and the TD, showed a commanding presence during the scrimmage, something he’s carried all camp, Ferentz said.
“I’m just trying to figure out right now if that’s the way he is,” Ferentz said, “or if he just doesn’t know what the heck is going on right now. It’s one of those two things. I hope it’s the first.”
The four kickers in camp — sophomores Miguel Recinos and Mick Ellis and true freshmen Keith Duncan and Caleb Shudak — were put through the paces. Recinos missed his first two, but bounced back to finish 6 of 8, including 44- and 46-yarders into a decent breeze toward the north end zone.