INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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FOURTH DOWN — What we learned this spring
Iowa has two quarterbacks its coaches trust. That’s a good thing. Junior Jake Rudock started all 13 games last season and showed toughness, leadership and a steady hand. He had several potential “freak out” moments, but kept his cool and showed a “winningness” in his outlook.
He managed games, yes, definitely. At some point in QB history, “game manager” became a derogatory term. This ignores the fact that all QBs manage games. Quarterbacks don’t make decisions/plays in a vacuum. Rudock’s big-picture comprehension locks in with what Iowa coaches want/demand in their quarterback.
You want the “backyard guy,” “gunslinger” guy? So does everyone when he turns out to be Brett Favre or Johnny Manziel. In the Kirk Ferentz and Hayden Fry eras (36 years now), Iowa has had maybe 1 1/2 true dual-threat QBs (Brad Banks, certainly, and perhaps Drew Tate). For the most part, “Backyard Guy” also is helped by an array of athletes. Iowa is working on that part.
Sophomore C.J. Beathard finished three games when Rudock suffered knee sprains. He’s moved from curiosity to possibility this spring as far as playing time. P-L-A-Y-I-N-G T-I-M-E. Note, that doesn’t say “starter.” It says “playing time.”
That was the big reveal this spring, the fact that head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis said they are considering giving Beathard time in games this fall.
During a relatively quiet spring, that idea rings out.
THIRD DOWN — Can Iowa get more out of QB?
Yes. Rudock wants fewer interceptions. He tied for the conference lead with 13 picks last season. He wants better, quicker decision making. He wants a higher completion percentage (59.0 percent was seventh in the B1G last season).
Can Iowa’s passing game be there when the running game is shut down? That didn’t happen against Wisconsin, Michigan State and LSU last season. Iowa has sights set on the west division title this year. Iowa needs to be a dimensional offense to get there (wide receivers also have to be along for this ride).
SECOND DOWN — Who said what?
“It’s something that we have discussed as an offensive staff. We’ll continue to look at it as something we want to implement next year.” — offensive coordinator Greg Davis on the idea of playing two QBs in games next season.
“You know, the No. 2 quarterback is the most popular guy on any campus or any NFL team in the country. We’re very pleased with C.J., but we feel like at this point, Jake is definitely the guy.” — Greg Davis
“I’ll be clear about this, Jake has really elevated his performance. He’s a better player than he was in January. When you have two players who you have confidence in, I think it makes sense to play them in a game. The tricky part is with quarterbacks, it’s a little bit different, but I think that’s realistic and it’s certainly something we’re going to talk about when we get back together football-wise in June.” — Kirk Ferentz on playing two QBs in games next fall
FIRST DOWN — Summer cliffhanger
Will Beathard play in games? Iowa has to keep him interested and there’s no better way than playing him.
The one thing that was totally clear from Iowa QB this spring was the gap between Rudock/Beathard to No. 3 Nic Shimonek, a red-shirt freshman just getting into this. Iowa needs Beathard fully engaged, but it also has a starter in Rudock who has a better resume and who has continued to grow his game.
These are good things.
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