With exception to the Iowa football team’s defense not allowing a rushing touchdown in the first five games, Jake Rudock’s running ability is the most pleasant surprise so far this season.
I’ve seen enough in five games to say that Rudock is the best running quarterback to start for Iowa since fellow Florida native Brad Banks in 2002.
Rudock has shown enough to have a slight edge over Drew Tate, who was craftier in the pocket, but had less straight-ahead speed. Tate preferred to use his vision and unpredictability to buy time in the pocket, whereas Rudock sees an opening and often takes off running.
“I knew I could run a little bit, but everybody on the field can run,” Rudock said Tuesday. “That’s just one of those things in high school and growing up, sometimes that you’ve just got to tuck it and run.
“And just being able to do that helps. When it opens up, sometimes, really you just have to take it, whatever it takes to get the first down.”
Rudock has tucked it away enough this season to be Iowa’s third-leading rusher heading into Saturday’s game against Michigan State at Kinnick Stadium. Rudock has rushed for 128 yards on 28 carries, which averages out to an impressive 4.6 yards per carry. He also leads the team with five rushing touchdowns and has the second longest run on the team at 31 yards.
I’m guilty of assuming that the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Rudock was just another in a long line of Iowa pro-style quarterbacks, who would struggle after being flushed from the pocket.
Sophomore center Austin Blythe understands that assumption.
“I’m not really surprised at his running ability,” Blythe said. “I know he’s deceivingly fast. He’s got those longs strides. I knew he could potentially run.
“But some of the scrambles that he’s had are just kind of ridiculous. You kind of don’t expect that out of a guy that kind of looks like Jake. He’s just the stereotypical pocket passer if you look at him.”
Nobody is ready to anoint Rudock as the second-coming of Banks as a runner. But Rudock’s ability to run, especially after a play breaks down, is a dimension that Iowa hasn’t had in the slightest since Tate, who started at quarterback from 2004-06.
Nothing against James Vandenberg or Ricky Stanzi, who were Iowa’s previous two starters at quarterback, but neither had Rudock’s speed or his willingness to run.
Vandenberg finished with 16 net rushing yards while taking every snap for Iowa last season. Stanzi had minus-6 rushing yards as a senior in 2010.
Their rushing totals were greatly impacted by getting sacked for losses. And the sacks often were caused by their inability to run.
Rudock isn’t likely to run much on zone read plays, but more so after a play breaks down and he has room to operate.
Iowa’s offense under second-year coordinator Greg Davis is designed for Rudock to make most of his throws either from the pocket or while rolling out to his right or left. It was the same for Vandenberg last season, and it wasn’t much different for Stanzi while playing under former offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe.
The difference comes from Rudock’s ability to beat defenders with his legs. Iowa used to either throw on third down or have the quarterback hand it to a running back.
But now there is a third option with Rudock playing quarterback. That third option could provide some relief Saturday while Iowa faces arguably the top defense in the country. Michigan State leads the nation in total defense, allowing just 188.8 yards per game.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that he had seen flashes of Rudock’s running ability in practice but wasn’t sure what to expect in a game.
“We don’t let our (quarterbacks) get hit, so we see them run in practice, but they’re not running for their lives, necessarily,” Ferentz said. “But you never know until they get into a game, and he’s done a good job.
“Sometimes, guys that run the ball as quarterbacks, they get a little too happy doing it or look to do it too fast. He’s not doing that. He’s playing quarterback and running when it’s appropriate. So that’s helpful.”
Rudock is always polite with the media, as was the case again Tuesday. But he also seemed a little worn out from answering questions about his running ability.
Perhaps he resents being stereotyped as strictly a pocket passer because he’s far from it.
And that’s one of the main reasons why Iowa (4-1) is becoming relevant again.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football