WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) Iowa senior C.J. Beathard earned All-Big Ten honors despite being banged up for much of last season.
The Hawkeyes are hoping that a healthy Beathard can blossom into one of the country's best quarterbacks this fall.
Beathard, who played through a hip injury in 2015 and had surgery to repair a sports hernia in January, is back practicing with Iowa during spring workouts. Coach Kirk Ferentz said that while Beathard isn't 100 percent healthy, he's getting closer to being his old self.
Iowa, which went 12-2 and reached the Rose Bowl last season, closes out spring ball with a scrimmage at Kinnick Stadium on April 23.
''It's tough going against your own defense. They know the offense's moves better than the offense sometimes. But he's doing well. He's better physically,'' Ferentz said Friday night during a public spring workout at Valley High, about 120 miles east of Iowa City. ''He's doing a lot of good things, and we've got confidence that he'll play well next year.''
Beathard's ability to make things happen outside the pocket provided Iowa's offense a dimension it hadn't seen in years.
Once he got hurt midway through last season, the Hawkeyes were forced to keep Beathard in the pocket as much as possible.
But Beathard still earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, throwing for 17 touchdowns against five picks while directing an attack focused on controlling the game on the ground.
If Beathard can run the ball comfortably in 2016, it should help Iowa overcome the loss of some key personnel.
The Hawkeyes will lose two starting receivers and running back Jordan Canzeri, whose explosiveness on simple running plays kept defenses honest. Iowa will also need to replace key linemen Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh.
''We've looked good - but we still have a ways to go. Obviously it's early, and we're still filling in pieces,'' said running back LeShun Daniels, who along with the quicker but smaller Akrum Wadley will likely get the majority of Iowa's carries next fall. ''We're making progress.''
One area where the Hawkeyes also appear to be making progress is with the status of defensive end Drew Ott, who has petitioned the NCAA for an extra year of eligibility after blowing his elbow and knee out midway through 2015.
Ferentz said Friday that Iowa hopes to know whether Ott will be with the Hawkeyes next fall within a week.
If not, Ott will enter the NFL Draft without a chance to work out for teams since he's still recovering from his injuries.
''At least we're getting closer. And we need to, because Drew has to live here too. And obviously it's a big one if the ruling doesn't go his way,'' Ferentz said. ''It's been a long time. They need to let him know what the situation is so he can just have some peace of mind and know what he's going to do...it's going to work out either way for him. Just wish it was a little bit quicker.''