As somebody who covers the Iowa football team, I get asked why the offensive game plan rarely calls for throwing passes downfield.
I was curious if senior receiver Tevaun Smith gets asked the same question.
“All the time,” Smith said Wednesday.
“Ask coach Ferentz.”
Smith might have been avoiding the question, but he was right to defer to Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz because the buck stops with Ferentz.
It’s important to point out that Smith wasn’t complaining about the offense. He was asked a question and gave an honest answer.
Smith was among several Iowa football players who met with reporters on Wednesday at the Iowa Football Complex.
The Toronto, Ontario native is the most experienced, and arguably the most talented receiver on the team. Smith figures prominently in Iowa’s game plan for next season, probably even more so now that Kevonte Martin-Manley has used up his eligibility.
The hope is that with Smith playing receiver and junior C.J. Beathard now starting at quarterback, Iowa’s sputtering offense will evolve into a pass-happy machine. Beathard has been blessed with a strong arm and isn’t afraid to use it. So it’s assumed that Iowa will throw caution to the wind by taking a lot more chances downfield.
I wouldn’t count on it, especially after listening to Beathard address the subject on Wednesday.
“I think that’s a little absurd to say that now that I’m in there we’re just going to throw the ball every time because that’s definitely not true,” Beathard said. “We’re going to run the game plan and that’s how it’s going to work to win.”
Beathard is sort of viewed as the savior for an Iowa offense that needs to be saved from mediocrity. He has played enough to tease fans with his potential. But Beathard hasn’t played enough to know for sure how he will operate with Greg Davis as his offensive coordinator.
So there is a sense of anticipation that comes with something new and different.
That was Jake Rudock’s problem as the Iowa quarterback. The excitement just wasn’t there anymore. It was present during the early stages with Rudock as the starter in 2013. But it gradually faded with each conservative game plan and with each disappointing loss.
You could argue that Rudock, who has since transferred to Michigan after losing the starting job to Beathard shortly after last season, was in the wrong place at the wrong time at Iowa. Somebody had to shoulder the blame for Iowa’s offensive inadequacies and who better than the starting quarterback for the past two seasons?
Rudock was guilty by association and by his perceived unwillingness to take chances by throwing downfield. Rudock often settled for an underneath routes, much to the dismay of fans.
Part of the excitement with having Beathard as the new starting quarterback comes from the simple fact that he isn’t Rudock.
That seems a little harsh, but it’s hard to tell fans how they should or shouldn’t feel.
The hope should be that the Iowa offense will get better at doing what it already does. It’s naïve to think that the game plan will receive a facelift, because even though there is a new quarterback behind center, there isn’t a new sheriff in town.
Ferentz isn’t about to change his philosophy as he approaches his 60th birthday on Aug. 1. He showed a willingness to tinker with it by hiring Davis, who seems fascinated with horizontal passing routes. But running between the tackles is what Ferentz mostly relies on.
That won’t change with Beathard behind center, nor should it. Iowa isn’t built to spread the field with speedy skill players on offense.
There will be a time and place to throw downfield, but don’t get carried away in thinking that things will be a lot different with Beathard playing quarterback.
"It’s the same," Smith said of the offense. "An offense is an offense."
It probably won’t matter who plays quarterback if the Iowa rushing attack fizzles.
“We’re Iowa, we love to run the football,” said junior running back LeShun Daniels. “Everybody knows that we love to run the football and be physical.”
If Iowa’s rushing attack helps to carve out a successful 2015 season, it also won’t matter how many times Beathard throws downfield.
It also might lead to some different questions for Smith.