Trial by fire
IOWA CITY – A new starting quarterback with a sterling prep resume should be reason for optimism at Iowa, which has seen its victories dip three years in a row.
But the Hawkeyes and their win-starved fans don’t quite know what to expect from sophomore Jake Rudock.
For the first time in nearly two decades, Iowa’s quarterback will take his first career snap in an opener when Rudock starts against Northern Illinois on Saturday.
Rudock emerged from a three-man competition this offseason as the leader of an offense seeking major improvement in 2012.
Rudock, a 6-foot-3 native of Weston, Fla., who served as James Vandenberg’s backup last season without taking a snap, held off C.J. Beathard and Cody Sokol to earn the starting job.
“Clearly by naming Jake (the starter) last week we felt like he was the furthest ahead and has been the most consistent,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We have confidence in C.J. and Cody, but Jake is going to play. We’ll let him go.”
That should make for interesting viewing Saturday, because all most people know about Rudock is what he accomplished in high school. It would be hard for anyone to top the numbers he put up for powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas.
Rudock was part of three teams that won Florida state titles, including a pair of national championships, and he won 31 games as a starter. He threw 73 TD passes at the prep level, including 36 against just three picks as a senior, and was named the USA Player of the Year by USA Today as St. Thomas Aquinas went 15-0.
“My high school coach always said that I was very business-like, whatever that means,” Rudock said.
Rudock appears to be the classic pocket passer-type often favored by the Hawkeyes, though they’ll likely shake things up after scoring just under 20 points a game in 2012 and finishing 4-8.
Teammates have described Rudock as a smart, focused and detail-oriented player. He’s also a pre-medicine/microbiology major with a reputation for being cerebral, and Ferentz said Rudock’s intelligence helped him earn the spot atop the depth chart.
“He’s on a different plan, but that’s a good thing. But he communicates well. He’s not an egghead, if you will,” Ferentz said. “He’s a smart guy. But he’s also a guy who prepares, and he’s very, very serious about what’s in front of him.”
Rudock’s first challenge will be in keying an offense that often looked out of sync in 2012 under first-year coordinator Greg Davis.
Rudock said the entire offense has a much better understanding of Davis’s scheme than it did a year ago, which should help the Hawkeyes move the ball more consistently than they did in 2012.
Rudock shouldn’t have to worry about losing his job over a few mistakes – at least not yet.
For now, he’s the guy the Hawkeyes will pin their hopes on.
“We all worked really hard in trying to get that spot, and when the coach made the call, he made the call. And we’ve got to step up and play,” Rudock said. “I’ve been trying to prepare as if I’d have to be ready to go, so it wasn’t so much of a surprise as it was more of a great feeling, a happy feeling to get that opportunity.”