July 30, 2015
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By CHRIS BREWER
CHICAGO — The facilities and the starting quarterback are new, but University of Iowa head football coach Kirk Ferentz delivered a familiar message Thursday during the opening session of 2015 Big Ten Media Days.
In his 17th appearance at the conference kickoff luncheon, the dean of Big Ten coaches told the media this season, like the others before it, is a season of opportunity.
“Since we’ve been here, for the most part we feel we’ve had a chance to compete for Big Ten titles,” Ferentz said. “That’s our goal and that’s been our goal since we started 16-plus years ago. It’s all about the continued development that we show and how we do our jobs as a staff.”
Most of the Hawkeye chatter this offseason centered around Iowa’s change at quarterback — Jake Rudock is out, C.J. Beathard is in — but as is often the case at Iowa, Ferentz’s focus on personnel change starts on the line. The Hawkeyes are facing the challenge of replacing four linemen that graduated to the NFL, including two tackles on each side of the ball.
“Personnel wise we lost good seniors, and if you look at our football team we had two outstanding defensive tackles and two outstanding offensive tackles, so the discussion starts there,” Ferentz said.
“The good news is we have good players working hard to follow those players, in those footsteps. They’re progressing and certainly what we do in the next month is going to be really important to the development of our football team.”
Offensively, the Hawkeyes plug a pair of sophomores onto the offensive line. Boone Myers is set to replace Outland Trophy winner Brandon Scherff at left tackle, and Ike Boettger stands in for Andrew Donnal on the right side. The sophomores have a combined one career start between them, and that was when Boettger lined up as a second tight end against Wisconsin.
On the other side of the ball, Jaleel Johnson and Nathan Bazata are penciled in next to returning seniors Drew Ott and Nate Meier. Ott led the team in sacks and tackles-for-loss last season, and on Thursday morning he was named to the 2015 Big Ten Players to Watch List.
“I’m looking forward to watching progress as we get into the month of August, and needless to say I’m excited to get on the field and continue the work we did in the spring. We’re very excited about what is in front of us.”
UI Head Coach Kirk Ferentz
“Since he began starting in 2013 he’s played extremely well,” Ferentz said of Ott. “He’s a tough, hard-minded guy and developed into an outstanding leader for us.”
The leader on offense is Beathard. The junior started one game last year, a 24-10 win at Purdue, but he took the majority of the snaps and threw for 145 yards and two touchdowns, plus 82 yards rushing, in the TaxSlayer Bowl. Just a few short weeks later he was named Iowa’s starting quarterback.
“The whole story is about C.J.’s development,” Ferentz said. “When he came in as a freshman it was pretty obvious early on that he had a lively arm and active feet. He’s a good football player with good tools. To me it’s been the growth and development.”
Beathard and Rudock were in a quarterback completion prior to the 2013 season. Rudock won the job and led Iowa to the Outback Bowl.
Twelve months later, after leading Iowa to a 7-5 regular season record, Ferentz opened up the competition in advance of the TaxSlayer Bowl. Rudock got the start, but ultimately Beathard played more effectively, bumping Rudock from the top of the depth chart.
“It was a decision in the best interest of our football team,” Ferentz said. “It was about moving everyone forward. It wasn’t an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a decision we made and we’ve moved on. I’m very happy with the development that C.J. has demonstrated.
“The most important thing is we take each step along the way, and there are a lot of them in front of us between now and January.”
The Hawkeyes open training camp Thursday, Aug. 6. Five weeks later they host Illinois State in the 2015 season opener.
“I’m looking forward to watching progress as we get into the month of August, and needless to say I’m excited to get on the field and continue the work we did in the spring,” Ferentz said. “We’re very excited about what is in front of us.”