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Bryce Miller: QB battle is close, but there’s a slight favorite for now

[ 0 ] August 8, 2013 |

IOWA CITY — Jake Rudock is an aspiring doctor with a class schedule that would make a valedictorian or two sick to their stomachs.

C.J. Beathard is the mop-haired kid from Tennessee with a country music-writing dad who works with Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw and Eric Church, along with a grandfather who’s got seven Super Bowl rings.

Cody Sokol is the junior-college player who was born in Des Moines and grew up in Phoenix, with advantages of age and post-high school experience packed into his helmet.

Listening to coaches at Iowa’s annual football media day Thursday, all can run, all can throw and all remain squarely in the hunt to be the Hawkeyes’ next starting quarterback when the season opens Aug. 31 against Northern Illinois.

How close is the race? If Hayden Fry was still gnawing toothpicks and patrolling the Iowa sideline, he’d describe it in some folksy way involving a gnat’s anatomy.

That said, here’s one view from outside the locker room on the current order, tight as it is, based on everything from temperament to a fairly aggressive shake of the tea leaves: 1) Rudock; 2) Sokol; 3) Beathard.

Rudock owns an edge as the No. 2 a season ago under James Vandenberg, and Sokol possesses a little more maturity than Beathard — in body and snaps. The measure that matters most, though, as it did in 1987 when Chuck Hartlieb won a three-man sprint with Dan McGwire and Tom Poholsky, will surface when the game clock is running.

Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis said the situation feels similar to 2006, when he held the same job at Texas.

The Longhorns searched for the replacement for Vince Young among freshmen Colt McCoy and Jevan Snead, but the answer proved as elusive as a defender chasing down Young as he bounded out of the pocket.

“By halftime of the second ballgame, we made a decision to go with Colt,” Davis said. “We’re just not going to set a timetable (this season). We would like for them to make that decision.”

Davis and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz have proved three things so far in this quarterback race. They’ll be patient, patient and patient some more.

The rest of the world will handle the impatient part, as proved Thursday when the three candidates walked onto the practice field together. The media morphed into an impromptu version of “The Swarm,” with a mob of tape recorders and cameras replacing Iowa players jogging out of the tunnel for kickoff.

“Coach (Ferentz) has been really honest from the start,” said Rudock, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound sophomore. “He said when someone emerges, they’re going to emerge and we’re going to take him and go with him.”

One thing is certain: No matter the person who takes the first snap against Northern Illinois, they’ll be given the keys to a faster car.

Iowa, which won four games a year ago and ended the season on a six-game skid, knows it has to pick up the pace. Davis said that in the first four practices this week, every single snap was played without a huddle.

That favors Rudock, at least initially. Playing faster can mean more yards, more points — and possibly more mistakes, if the driver is jerking the steering wheel wildly between the center line and a ditch.

Rudock brings the seasoning and edge of being a No. 2. The mystery as to why Rudock failed to take a game snap a season ago, especially late in blowouts against Michigan and Penn State, remains a bit unsolved, though.

Davis, however, understands why the question swirls even now.

“As we look back, had somebody got snaps last year, that would’ve helped — but that’s not what we did, so we’ll live with that decision,” Davis said. “… Sure, there could have been (snaps in mop-up duty). I’m not going to argue that fact. We felt like, Kirk and I felt like, we were doing the right thing at that time.”

Beathard, possibly the most interesting of the bunch, probably lingers a step or two back of his signal-calling crowd, though.

The son of Casey Beathard, the songwriter, said he carries some of the most seasoned advice into camp from his grandfather, longtime NFL general manager Bobby Beathard.

“He’s seen it all,” said C.J. Beathard, a 6-2, 180-pound redshirt freshman. “He just pretty much told me to go out there and give it my all — don’t think about things too much if something bad goes wrong. You’ve got to shake it off and go to the next play.

“… You’ve got to move on. That’s quarterbacks, they say you have a short-term memory.”

Sokol might bring the widest worldview to the huddle, given his time at Scottsdale Community College.

“I think everyone on this team is the least selfish group of people I’ve been around,” he said. “It’s not about me, me, me.”

Sokol, too, gains a slim edge over Beathard in the eye-test department at 6-2, 215 pounds.

“Sokol’s a little different,” strength coach Chris Doyle said of the junior. “He’s a junior-college guy, he comes in here, he’s a little more mature physically. His progress is more field-related, learning the offense and execution and those things.

“The other guys, they need to grow — and physically get bigger and stronger to compete in the Big Ten.”

And that’s happening, Doyle said. Rudock and Beathard each tacked on 20-plus pounds of lean body mass the last two years.

So is it close? Yes, there’s little doubt.

But it’s Rudock by the nose of a football — until further notice.

Bryce Miller can be reached at 515-284-8288 or brmiller@dmreg.com. Follow him on Twitter: @Bryce_A_Miller

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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