After a long offseason and transfer process, perhaps no one is more excited to see fall coming than Jake Rudock.
“I think the biggest thing is just going out and playing football again,” Rudock said Thursday at Michigan’s media day. “Coming into the stadium and not getting booed at but getting cheered for. That’s a big difference, 100,000 fans.”
Yes, it was an ugly split between Rudock and Iowa last January. In 2013, Rudock started all 13 games for the Hawkeyes, who went 8-5. But last season, though his numbers were better statistically, the fans grew unhappy and Rudock began to lose control of the starting job.
Iowa lost in overtime against Nebraska to end the regular season, and then Rudock threw just eight passes in a blowout defeat against Tennessee in the Gator Bowl. C.J. Beathard replaced him in the bowl game, and just days after the season, coach Kirk Ferentz released a depth chart listing Beathard as the starter.
The team had moved on. So Rudock came as a graduate transfer to Michigan, eligible to play immediately. Cheers for the Wolverines might be hard to come by in the Sept. 3 opener at Utah, but when Michigan opens its home schedule the following week, Rudock will have his fresh start.
Until then, he’ll be locked in a tight quarterback competition during fall camp, which starts tomorrow.
“He’s smart, he’s diligent, he looks good,” said passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch. “He’s a very polished kid. He impressed me when he came out. And most importantly, when we brought him from Iowa, he doesn’t turn the ball over and he doesn’t take sacks. If you don’t do those two things, then good things come your way.”
Rudock threw 13 interceptions in his junior season at Iowa but trimmed that number down to five last year. Michigan, meanwhile, threw 13 picks in 2013 and then 18 last year.
“It’s just really taking care of the ball, taking what the defense gives you,” Rudock said. “That’s the big thing, understanding what defenses are doing to you. Third and long, what’s the defense going to do? They’re going to drop guys back. They’re trying to not let you get a first down.
“It’s better to have a completion and give your athlete a chance to possibly break out and get a first down, rather than throwing into triple coverage. That’s through being coached for four years now in collegiate football.”
Rudock’s main competition, Shane Morris, had the inside track to the starting job after spring camp, before Rudock entered the fold.
Rudock has made 691 throws in college over 25 starts, while Morris has totaled just 87 attempts in 10 career appearances, two starts. But Morris has the Michigan experience, while Rudock is new on campus.
“It doesn’t matter if (his 25 starts) were at Iowa last year, because (the coaches) were in Jacksonville and San Francisco and USC and Buffalo and Baltimore last year,” Fisch said. “Where they were last year is where they were last year. Jake has a nice bit of experience, but that’s just part of it.”
Rudock will now spend fall camp learning the playbook and scheme under Fisch, offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and head coach Jim Harbaugh. He said he’ll get a chance early in fall camp to tell how comfortable he is with plays, verbiage and passing concepts that are similar to but not the same as the ones he used at Iowa.
The benefit of the transition is that Rudock ran a pro-style system at Iowa and will run a similar one at Michigan. Though he carried the ball 134 times in two seasons, he’s more of a pocket passer, like the other quarterbacks, which fits well into the new staff’s system.
“It’s always unique every single year, but at the same time, I come from a program where we had to compete every day,” Rudock said. “You had to earn your spot and prove what you could do every day. Having the opportunity to come in and fight for a position is all you can ever ask for. Earning something is always much better than having it handed to you.”