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IOWA CITY — Iowa has a quarterback “something” going on. What that something is remains to be seen and won’t take shape until August, but it’s a something that will involve two quarterbacks.
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis said last week that Iowa’s offensive staff threw around the idea of a package for sophomore quarterback C.J. Beathard. He also said junior Jake Rudock was the definite starter.
After Saturday’s spring game — a 46-31 victory for the offense before an estimated crowd of 20,000 at Kinnick Stadium — head coach Kirk Ferentz said playing two quarterbacks in games is “very realistic,”
“It was on the board coming out of the recruiting phase,” Ferentz said, “and after watching this spring, I think it’s very realistic. They both do somethings well.”
Ferentz said both quarterbacks have improved this spring. Beathard got the longer look Saturday. He led the first-team offense in the second half and finished 21 of 39 for 349 yards and a touchdown. Rudock was the starter and completed 11 of 22 for 165 yards with a TD and interception.
“I’ll be clear about this,” Ferentz said. “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.”
Rudock started all 13 games last season. Beathard finished three that Rudock was forced to leave because of knee injuries. Sounds as though the door has opened, if even a little, for Beathard.
“I don’t know, that’s really up to him [coach Davis],” Rudock said when asked about the prospect. “Right now, it’s just about finishing spring and look to get better in the off-season.”
Rudock said that Beathard has sharpened his game. Beathard was better even Saturday than he was two weeks ago in Des Moines. He showed some touch and didn’t throw to the deepest option on every down.
“He’s improved, you can see that,” said Rudock, whose interception came on an underthrown ball that cornerback Desmond King gathered. “He definitely understands our offense better than he used to. That comes with time. When you’re in a system for a certain number of years, you start to get more comfortable with it and think he’s done a good job of grasping that.”
Ferentz didn’t want a body count, so Saturday’s scrimmage leaned toward the passing game. Red-shirt freshman wide receiver Derrick Willies was the star of that show.
On perhaps the play of the day, Willies split zone coverage between safety Anthony Gair and cornerback Greg Mabin. He turned a little late on a fireball from Beathard, but recovered, caught it and sprinted in for a 42-yard TD. The 6-4, 210-pounder finished with five catches for 142 yards and the TD.
“Obviously Willies, today was his best day,” Ferentz said. “Now, we’re going to try to have to corral him because he’ll be the spring game sensation. But he really made some nice plays today and maybe the nicest play I saw was the one on our sideline that was a first down conversion. It was a nice grab and he kept his foot in.”
The other big scoring play was a Rudock pass to tight end Ray Hamilton. The 6-5, 252-pounder took a short pass, ran over free safety Jordan Lomax and finished a 54-yard TD.
“It’s ironic he had a missed tackle, because he’ll come up and tackle you,” Ferentz said.
Some position battle updates: Sophomore Maurice Fleming spent most of the day as a starter at corner opposite King. Red-shirt freshman guard Sean Welsh has solidified himself as a starter (Ferentz said No. 5 O-linemen). “I think he’ll make it,” Ferentz said.
Punter remains up for grabs between juniors Connor Kornbrath and Dillon Kidd, both of whom had up-and-down days. Junior Marshall Koehn feels like the No. 1 kicker, going 3-for-3 Saturday with a long of 42.
Iowa didn’t show much in the running game. Senior Mark Weisman had just three carries. The highlight came from junior Jordan Canzeri, who had a 16-yard TD burst.
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