Soon-to-be Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock doesn’t want to waste any time before getting to work at his new school.
Rudock graduates from Iowa’s pre-med program this upcoming weekend. He plans to make the seven-hour drive to Michigan’s campus in Ann Arbor the following day, where he’ll begin a busy summer aimed at winning both the Wolverines’ starting quarterback job and the trust of his new teammates.
The South Florida native started 25 of his last 26 games at Iowa but was listed behind junior C.J. Beathard on the depth chart when the 2015 offseason started. He threw for 4,819 yards and 34 touchdowns as a Hawkeye. Former coaches and teammates considered leadership to be one of Rudock’s strengths as a quarterback. Building a similar bond with a new roster is one of his top priorities this summer.
“That’s a big challenge to be the new guy coming in,” Rudock said. “I only have one year, so that’s a big difference compared to another transfer who has two or three years. It presents a new challenge and a new obstacle. Getting there early in the summer I think will help gain that trust and understand these guys. As a quarterback, it’s important to understand how the guys work -- what guys need to get fired up and what they need to calm them down.”
Rudock said he expects to compete for a starting job with the other quarterbacks already at Michigan. Junior Shane Morris separated himself from his fellow contenders on campus this spring, according to head coach Jim Harbaugh. Morris, who started one game last fall, was the most experienced quarterback on the roster before Rudock joined the team in April.
“I expect there will be very good competition. He's a player who is hungry to compete," Harbaugh said in mid-April when asked about Rudock joining the roster. "It's good for him academically and very good for him athletically with the opportunity to compete for a role. Whether that be a starting role, I know that's where his goals are aligned.”
Preparation to win the job began last month when Rudock received Michigan’s playbook. He said the concepts aren’t drastically different from what he ran at Iowa, but the language and some of the different reads will take some time to learn. He said he's focused on getting a general understanding of the offense during the past month, but he didn’t want to get too deep into the weeds before his new coaches had a chance to teach him.
Rudock has some built-in familiarity with the coaching staff already. Passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch recruited him aggressively when Fisch was an assistant at Miami. He hasn’t had a chance to get to know Michigan’s current quarterbacks yet, but does have a connection with fellow quarterback transfer John O’Korn. They both played for St. Thomas Aquinas High School and trained together several times since then. O’Korn isn’t eligible to play in 2015, but he can be a valuable helper for Rudock in practice.
“It’s great having a guy you know and a guy you know will work hard,” Rudock said. “It’s great to have another quarterback who has playing experience. I think we can help each other out.”
Rudock has stayed in shape during the spring semester by working out with former Hawkeyes who played in the NFL or are trying to get there. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz gave him free reign to use the team’s weight room and facilities despite the fact that he would be suiting up for another Big Ten team in the fall. Rudock said he is leaving on good terms with his former coach and teammates, but he didn’t want to go into specifics about why he ultimately decided to go elsewhere for his last year of eligibility.
“I don’t think it was anything particular to be honest,” he said. “It was one of those decisions that I made over the winter when the season was over.”
Michigan was an easy choice for Rudock when he learned there would be a spot available for him because of his relationship with Fisch and the prospect of working with Harbaugh. Rudock said Harbaugh’s reputation and the coach’s obvious enthusiasm at practice (“He had his cleats on. He wants to put on a helmet and go play with those guys,” he said) were major factors in his decision to finish his college career at Michigan.
Experience and a 60 percent completion rate during his two years as a starter make Rudock an early favorite to be under center for the Wolverines in September. The biggest hill he’ll have to climb on the way there is integrating himself into a locker room that was drawn closer together by a tumultuous year in 2014. That process begins next Monday.
“I think the biggest thing is just trying to take that leadership role,” he said. “You have to understand it is a new place and not everybody is going to take it the same way. I think you have to feel it out with some things and be a little aggressive on other things. That’s hard to say without actually being there and being around the guys. That’ll come in time.”