When Jake Rudock came to Michigan, much of what he found was new. He was in a new city, on a new team with new coaches and a new playbook.
Rudock transferred to Michigan from Iowa, where he started for the better part of the last two seasons. He arrived in Ann Arbor as a college graduate, but also as a newcomer. Fortunately for Rudock, he could take solace in the fact that he had been through the acclimation process before.
“It was similar feelings and memories of freshman year,” Rudock said. “But it was different enough, where you know you’ve had experience playing. I think that makes it a little bit easier, and I think it allows you to mesh better with the guys. And also, second time around, you have that familiarity with it. You’ve done it before. You’ve had to create new friends, create new relationships on the field.”
The first steps to assimilation came when Rudock arrived over the summer, and all the “new” started coming at him fast. He had to learn the plays and compete with returning junior Shane Morris, all while getting his bearings.
Rudock remembers calling his teammates “buddy” and “pal” while he continued to learn their names. He had to strike a balance this summer between being the new guy, but also playing the position most associated with leadership. He had to know his place, but also earn respect.
“I think one of the big things is the guys let you know,” Rudock said. “Maybe not verbally, but from their body language and how they react to things, they kind of let you know if, ‘Hey, you’re overstepping your boundaries, you just got here.’ ”
Five games in, he appears to have earned the respect to lead his offense, as coaches and teammates speak positively about his even keel and leadership capabilities.
“He’s a great leader,” said redshirt freshman receiver Maurice Ways. “He’s not really a vocal leader, but when he talks, you listen.”
While he has quickly developed into the type of leader Michigan sought when it brought him in, there is still at least one aspect of his game that needs more time to flourish: chemistry with his wideouts.
At Iowa, Rudock wasn’t thrust into game action as a freshman, which gave him more time to grow into the offense and to perfect timing with receivers before he tested it against opponents. This season, Rudock took the first snap and every meaningful one since. And with limited time — Rudock called his acclimation process ‘accelerated’ — he has sometimes struggled to get on the same page with receivers.
He has missed on multiple deep balls, often overthrowing his receivers. That has led to criticism of the fifth-year senior, who was billed as a safe option coming into the season but has already thrown more interceptions (six) than he did in 12 games last season. His quarterback rating, 117.4, is lower than in either of his two seasons as a starter.
But QB rating and interceptions aren’t the stats that Rudock uses to measure himself. This is his last year of college football, and if that means he gets stuck with the game-manager label, Rudock is just fine with that — as long as he’s winning.
“I’m OK with (only being measured by) wins and losses,” Rudock said. “The more wins, the better, and just let everything else take care of itself.”