IOWA CITY, Iowa — The hip, yes. The hype, no. The smart cookies, the keepers, don’t believe in summer accolades any more than they do the Easter Bunny.
So when someone asked about the Pro Football Focus piece declaring him the top quarterback in the Big Ten, gift basket delivered straight to the ego, C.J. Beathard did what he does best.
“I mean, you can’t think of it as bad,” the senior Iowa quarterback shrugged. “It’s not bad. Obviously, if they’re talking about you, that’s a good thing.
“But you can’t look into that. Guys have been wrong about that stuff all the time. I’ve still got my entire senior season left to play.”
More than that, he’s got to prove that he can stay — well, upright.
“With him, it’s going to be about durability,” Dan Shonka, general manager and national scout with Ourlads.com, said of Beathard. “Because last year, he was beat up so bad, it was hard for him to take a snap toward the end of the year.
“And he’s a tough guy. Bobby Beathard (his grandfather and former NFL executive) is a real good friend of mine, and I’ve known Bobby for years. And one thing Bobby always brought to the table (with) his sons and everything else, they’re really mentally tough guys.
“Bobby’s one of those guys who does cliff-diving, all that stuff. When Bobby was between general manager jobs, we were watching tape and he had his hand really taped up and I said, ‘God, Bobby, what did you do, put your hand in a meat-grinder?’ He said, ‘No, I was surfing and the damn board flipped over.’ This is when he was 55 years old. They are tough guys.
“(C.J.) should hopefully be OK. If the offensive line comes along at Iowa as it always does, he shouldn’t get killed. But he’s kind of a wiry type of guy. He still could use more bulk. He’s got a decent arm and he’s a smart guy, (there are) no problems, he’s going to learn everything and stuff. (So) you’re probably looking at a late-round draft pick. Although I will say this: This year, the quarterbacks suck across the country.”
Right. Well, let’s put in a pin in that last point and, um, circle back.
“Long story short, I think Beathard’s going to get into a (pro) camp somewhere,” Shonka continued.
“He understands the game, he’s a smart guy. He’s just got to get a little bit stronger and be able to hold up, durability-wise. Because even though he’s tough, you’ve got to be able to hold up.”
And there’s the rub, Tiger Balm.
Tough rocks. Comfortable is better. After battling hip and groin problems most of last fall, the Hawkeyes’ quarterback underwent sports hernia surgery in January and was held out of the spring game after tweaking his right (throwing) shoulder.
Although consider this: Beathard managed 2,809 passing yards, 237 rushing yards, and 23 total touchdowns in 2015 with his personal health meter, in Xbox terms, ranging between 60-70 percent after the third week in September. As good as he was, what’s the benchmark when that bar feels a lot closer to 90-95 percent?
“And I think we realized that this summer, when we’re doing speed drills and I’m winning some of those drills,” Beathard said. “And I look around like, ‘Man, I’m feeling pretty healthy. Feeling pretty good. Feeling the best I’ve felt in months.’
“That’s good for me and it helps my confidence level when I know I can do things with my feet and run without being limited. And I like knowing that.”
Hey, the scouts like it, too:
We’re ranking the 5 best QBs in the Big Ten.
1. C.J. Beathard
— PFF College Football (@PFF_College) July 6, 2016
Of the Big Ten quarterbacks longtime draftnik Russ Lande sat down and graded recently, he found that the Hawkeyes’ quarterback made “three of the best (throws) of any of them … but also I saw three of the worst. He can do some things that most guys can’t that are intriguing to me.”
“I don’t think you’re reaching,” Lande replied. “Beathard is an underrated football player, in my opinion. Again, consistency is an issue.”
That and health. In addition to generally effusive comments about the senior’s feet (‘his impressive 103.1 NFL QB rating when having at least 2.6 seconds to throw in the pocket’) and ‘adjusted accuracy (discounting drops and spikes, 71.9 percent, tops in the league), Pro Football Focus also recorded Beathard as completing just 18 of 49 attempts that went 20 yards or more past the line of scrimmage.
Then again, how might that same picture look with the benefit of a sound lower body? With legs that don’t fight him when tries to plant on them? With hips he can rotate and snap without discomfort?
“We’re focused on having a great season, and I know, in order to have a great season as a team, I’m going to have to have a great season as a player and individual,” Beathard said.
“So I’m going to do everything I can to help this team win games and have a good season. When the season’s over? We’ll see what they’re saying then.”
You can reach Sean Keeler via email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @seankeeler