IOWA CITY — Throughout summertime seven-on-seven workouts and now with the start of fall camp, there is one rock-solid certainty among the usual array of preseason questions the Iowa football team is looking to answer.
C.J. is in charge of the Hawkeye offense.
Settling in as a second-year starter, quarterback C.J. Beathard has become the type of leader who is helping the players around him take their games to new heights.
“It’s easy to follow his lead because the only thing he wants to do is win,’’ senior receiver Matt VandeBerg said. “That’s the way he looks at it and it’s become the way we all look at it. Our individual goals are our team goals and C.J. has influenced that way of thinking a lot.’’
During the Hawkeyes’ media day Saturday, 18th-year coach Kirk Ferentz compared Beathard to another former Iowa quarterback who shares that ability with Beathard.
“I’m not saying he’s Brad Banks, but there are some parallels in the way he carries himself and the way he does things,’’ Ferentz said, referencing the 2002 Big Ten MVP who led Iowa to an 11-2 season and an Orange Bowl berth in his only year as a starter.
Ferentz is finding that teammates gravitate toward Beathard as a leader in much the same way they did toward Banks during his only year as an Iowa starter.
“It was really powerful and as he went, our team really went with him,’’ Ferentz said. “C.J. has that same characteristic.’’
He said that while their skill sets differ, their personalities include many similarities.
“The commonality there is that they’re both genuine people, really genuine guys who have all the right motives and agenda,’’ Ferentz said. “They’re just out there to help the team win. They care about their teammates, all the things you hope a quarterback can be.’’
Beathard finds it easier to be that type of leader as he has grown comfortable in his role.
“A year ago now, I was trying to figure this all out. I feel like I’ve learned so much and picked up so much over the past season that I can help bring those younger guys along,’’ Beathard said.
Now beginning his fifth year of working with Iowa’s offense, Beathard has developed an understanding of its nuances and is working to help those around him understand as well.
“I see that as part of my job,’’ Beathard said. “I want everybody on our team to be as good as they can possibly be and if there is anything I can do to help bring them along, I’m going to take the time to make that happen. It only benefits all of us.’’
Offensive coordinator Greg Davis likes what he sees from Beathard.
In addition to working to grow his own game, Davis appreciates the way he is working to grow the game of the players around him.
“Good quarterbacks have that ability and we’re seeing that from C.J.,’’ Davis said. “It’s like having another coach on the field and that’s a good thing. He’s echoing the same message that we’re trying to get across.’’
Beathard speaks from experience.
He completed 61.6 percent of the 362 passes he attempted last fall while earning second team all-Big Ten honors, and 85 of his 223 completions ended up in the hands of VandeBerg or tight end George Kittle.
They are the only players among the Hawkeyes’ top seven receivers last season who return this fall.
“It’s a new group for the most part and we’re working to get everybody on the same page,’’ Beathard said. “They’re working hard and learning and it’s going well, but we still have a lot of work to do.’’
Davis said Beathard hasn’t hesitated to articulate that to his teammates.
“When the situation comes up, he’ll tell a guy that he wants a route run a certain way, and he’s telling them the same way that we as coaches want it taught,’’ Davis said. “He’s become an extension of what we’re trying to get done and when you have a quarterback who can do that, it is a true benefit.’’
Beathard said his objective is to bring everybody along and prepare a cohesive passing game.
His teammates see it working.
“C.J. breaks it down so we can understand and we’re working toward the same thing,’’ sophomore receiver Jerminic Smith said. “We’re all trying to put ourselves in a position to be ready to go and that starts with working to get better every day. We all know we have to keep moving forward.’’
Beathard believes that is the only way for the Hawkeyes to achieve their ultimate goals, which include taking things a step further than a year ago when Iowa rolled through the regular season at 12-0 before losing in the Big Ten Championship Game and the Rose Bowl.
“We want more than we accomplished last year and the only way for that to happen is for us to become a better football team,’’ Beathard said. “That’s what this time is about. We’re 0-0 right now. We have to prove ourselves all over again and we’re working to make that happen.’’
VandeBerg said Beathard is determined to make certain that chance doesn’t slip away.
“You only get so many chances in this game to make it a special season,’’ VandeBerg said. “C.J. is making sure that we make the most of those chances.’’