The summer study sessions were not exactly what Jake Rudock was picturing when he arrived in college.
The Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback envisioned plenty of time to game plan for the upcoming season, breaking down opponents and scheming up new ways to attack them during those extra hours in the film room. There might also be more time to take a deeper dive into his own team from the season before, combing through all the plays and taking note of every pass or decision that could have been improved and taking it straight to the offseason practice field.
In reality, the college offseason doesn’t really lend itself to brainstorming for the first few teams on the schedule for the Hawkeyes, and much of the usefulness of reviewing the tape of last season’s eight-win campaign is already gone after watching it during the winter. Rudock is still soaking up film in between rigorous workouts and throwing sessions with his teammates, but it turns out popping in video of spring practice is where the junior has actually found some value.
“You can’t really look so much ahead as I thought when I came to college,” Rudock said. “I thought, 'Hey, we’re going to look at all these teams and get a huge jump on them.'
“But the fact is, there are a lot of faces that change, tendencies can change, so you have to focus on yourself and do what you can to get the team better instead of worrying about what other teams are doing.”
The Hawkeyes are one of those teams working on shaking up some tendencies, and that leaves more than enough for them to do without scheming for the season opener against Northern Iowa on Aug. 30.
Iowa isn’t about to abandon its smash-mouth offensive style any time soon, even with a veteran starter returning at quarterback who proved in a handful of games last season that he was more than capable of airing out the football. But Iowa is making a concerted effort to increase the tempo a bit more this fall in an effort to keep defenses more off balance and limit their chances to make substitutions, and Rudock’s ability to command the attack and make the necessary reads and checks will be critical in the installation of that updated approach.
“Decision-making, being smart with the ball, work more on timing with the receivers, looking at film to see the checks we made and what we could have done better or maybe a little bit quicker,” Rudock said. “Sometimes it’s just making a check two or three seconds sooner that would help the offense a lot more. There’s a lot of little things that go into it and can help the team, which is obviously the goal at the end of the day.”
Rudock showed that he could deliver some bigger things in his first year as the starter a year ago, throwing for nearly 2,400 yards with 18 touchdowns and completing 59 percent of his attempts during Iowa’s somewhat surprisingly successful season. With a talented offensive line returning and what appears to be a full set of weapons around him, there appears to be plenty of room for those numbers to go up this fall.
But that might be getting ahead of things just a bit for Rudock. He might have a pretty good idea of where the offense is headed after reviewing the progress made during the spring, and obviously the summer workouts are all designed to help the Hawkeyes take another step forward. For now, though, he’s learned by this stage in his career that there is no sense even looking ahead one more month.
“I believe you really can’t do too much about it, because then you stop focusing a little bit and get too far ahead,” Rudock said. “Right now, the most important thing is our workout that comes in about an hour and a half.
“Then after that it will be tomorrow’s workout.”
In the meantime there will probably be some time to squeeze in one of those summer study sessions. Just like the workouts, the focus will still be all on Iowa.