Quarterback competitions took center stage around the Big Ten this spring and will continue to do so when preseason camps kick off in August. As camp approaches, we're examining each of the unsettled signal caller races in the league, where they stand and what needs to be done in the all important summer months.
Next up, Iowa.
Statistics: Rudock didn't see any game action in 2012 despite being the primary backup to Hawkeyes starter James Vandenberg. Sokol redshirted at Iowa last season after passing for 3,807 yards and 43 touchdowns as a sophomore, and 2,443 yards and 24 touchdowns as a freshman at Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College. Beathard has yet to see action in a collegiate game.
Where things stand: Rudock emerged from the spring with a slight edge, and head coach Kirk Ferentz said last month that if the season started immediately, Rudock would be the starter. But the race remains fairly close, and while Rudock and Sokol have a bit more experience, Beathard can catch up with a strong summer. Rudock looked the best in the two open scrimmages Iowa held this spring, but Sokol wasn't far behind and Beathard also had his moments.
Summer buzz: Iowa lacks a quarterback who has taken a snap in an FBS game, so not surprisingly, Ferentz didn't expect to make any big decisions coming out of the spring.
Rudock and Sokol practiced with the second-team offense in 2012, while Beathard spent those workouts running the scout team. Spring practice provided a platform for all three to finally work with the team's top receivers, tight ends, backs and linemen. Ferentz achieved his goal of an equal and fair competition in the spring, but he expects all three quarterbacks to look different when the team reconvenes in August.
"It's fair to say that Jake and Cody were at a little different plane than C.J.," Ferentz recently told ESPN.com, "but the biggest thing now after going through 15 days of spring practice that this is where they have an opportunity to go back and look at that tape in a more sterile environment and see what they can pull from it. And, as they work with their teammates over the course of the summer, hopefully sharpen their skills a little bit.
"Ultimately, it's what they do in August that’s going to determine how this thing shakes out."
Ferentz is seeking proficiency, decision-making, accuracy, ball protection and the ability to move the offense in the quarterback who starts for Iowa in 2013. Although all three quarterbacks have what Ferentz called a "workable" knowledge of the offense, which sputtered under first-year coordinator Greg Davis last season, they all must make strides during the summer.
Inexperience is the common denominator, and all three candidates have the needed throwing ability and mobility, Ferentz said. But there are some differences with each, which is nothing new at Iowa.
"We’ve had all kinds of quarterbacks play here historically," Ferentz said. "Brad Banks is a very different quarterback from Nathan Chandler, and Drew Tate was a very different quarterback from those guys. And then [Ricky] Stanzi came along later and certainly was different than all three of those guys. We don't have the luxury of being locked in, because we don't always get the first choice. If you're able to draft in the first round every time, you can figure out, 'Hey, this is what we're looking for.'
"But we try to find the guy who we think is best in every recruiting class, and as they come along, we'll try to bend toward their skill set."
Rudock and Sokol have a slight leg up entering camp, but Beathard isn't "miles behind," Ferentz said.
"He's just not quite as knowledgeable right now, for obvious reasons," Ferentz said. "But I could also argue that he's got the best opportunity to gain ground and change more than the other guys, because this is a time where, if a summer is done right for a college player, they can improve at any position. The less experienced a guy is, the more opportunity there is to look more significantly different than a guy who has played three years."
Ferentz doesn't have a rigid timetable for determining the starter in camp, noting that if separation doesn't take place naturally, he'll need to make some decisions and divide the reps differently. At some point in August, "you’ve got to let a guy work with the first team and prepare to be the starter," he said.
What is done now, while the quarterbacks work with teammates away from the coaches, likely will shape who emerges.
"All three need to take what they learned in the spring," Ferentz said. "The challenge now is to push their game forward."