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Rick Brown: Choice of Rudock still leaves unanswered questions

[ 0 ] August 23, 2013 |

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz is not a big social media guy. You won’t catch him sharing his wit, wisdom or deepest thoughts on Twitter.

“I really think if you saw our head coach on Twitter or doing those kinds of things, those aren’t in his personality,” Brian Ferentz, Iowa’s offensive line coach and Kirk’s son, said this spring.

Which makes Friday’s announcement of Jake Rudock as the Hawkeyes’ starting quarterback for the Aug. 31 opener against Northern Illinois so un-Ferentz-like. The coach revealed his starter — not exactly a deep, dark secret — on the athletic department’s official Twitter account (@TheIowaHawkeyes).

“All three returning quarterbacks have competed well and improved in each phase of our preseason camp,” Ferentz said. “We plan to start Jake in our season opener, and we are all confident he will do a quality job.”

Now that we know who starts in seven days at Kinnick Stadium, one lingering question remains: Will he finish?

C.J. Beathard and Cody Sokol started fall practice sharing the No. 1 line with Rudock. Will one or both of them — they share the No. 2 spot on the depth chart released Friday — come out of the bullpen for game action against the Huskies? Or is this Jake’s show start to finish?

I asked Ferentz at the Big Ten Conference media days last month if he was resigned to the possibility that the job might switch hands during the season. Ferentz said that wouldn’t be determined until, as Hayden Fry used to say, the bullets start flying.

“That’s the ultimate test,” Ferentz said of game action. “I think we’ll just let that play itself out. I don’t want to try and predict that.”

Case in point: 2008. Ricky Stanzi beat out Jake Christensen as the starting quarterback in a tug-of-war that took four games to settle.

“Sometimes, things are really clear-cut,” Ferentz said. “Other times, it’s not as clear.”

Greg Davis, Iowa’s second-year offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, said during Iowa’s media day Aug. 8 that it’s possible that two quarterbacks might play early in the season.

“You go through fall camp with scrimmages and all that, where you can see that this tailback broke that tackle,” Davis said. “But you don’t hit the quarterbacks. So you wonder. You don’t know. Did the ball get out before the blitz? Did he slip the tackle and make the throw?

“That’s why, when they’re tied, it’s harder to pick than other positions. Because they’re never live until the game starts.”

In Iowa’s case, they’ll be live for the first time in their careers. Rudock is a third-year sophomore. Beathard is a second-year freshman. Sokol, a junior college transfer, also redshirted last season. None of them has taken a Division I snap.

Ferentz knows that’s been a subject of conversation. James Vandenberg took every snap for the Hawkeyes last season.

“It’s interesting, you go back to Stanzi and he was 0-for-4 passing in 2007,” Ferentz said last month. “I looked it up.

“That argument, ‘This guy has never played.’ … (Drew) Tate, I think, was 5-for-11 (as a freshman in 2003) in games that really didn’t count. It’s all about how fast they can move forward. But I think all three guys are capable.”

This is clearly an educated guess, without the benefit of the painstaking evaluation the coaching staff put into this decision:

Rudock’s cerebral approach to the game, which makes him well-suited for the no-huddle offense Ferentz plans to use this season, helped him win the job as much as an arm that passed for 2,827 yards as a senior and helped St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Weston, Fla., finish 15-0.

Fans won’t want Rudock to struggle, but they’ll want to see Beathard play, too. He is an intriguing candidate, with running and passing skills that offer tremendous upside. Experience is the only missing ingredient. Sokol has been under the gun in two seasons at Scottsdale Community College in Arizona.

I asked Rudock at media day this month why he should be the starter. He gave a politically correct answer.

“I’m not speaking on their behalf,” he said of Beathard and Sokol, “but I think the answer is just help win games. That’s really what this business is about.”

Coming off an 4-8 season, a win-hungry fan base couldn’t agree more.

Rick Brown, a 10-time Iowa Sportswriter of the Year, covers Hawkeye football for the Register. Follow him on Twitter: @ByRickBrown.


Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

About Rick Brown: Rick Brown covers men's basketball for The Des Moines Register and Hawk Central. He's married and the father of two. He also covers golf for the Register. View author profile.

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