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Jake Rudock adds experience, leadership to Michigan

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Jim Harbaugh has gone shopping for quarterbacks in bulk during his first three months as Michigan's head coach. His Costco-sized roster at that position had lacked experience and a track record of leadership, but that changed Wednesday with the expected addition of former Iowa starter Jake Rudock.

Rudock started 25 games at Iowa during the last two seasons, which is 24 more than the other four scholarship quarterbacks who are eligible to play in 2015 and planning to be on Michigan's roster this summer. The Big Ten cleared Rudock to transfer inside the conference without penalty this week, and he quickly followed by making clear his intentions to join the Wolverines. In doing so, he provides his new coaches with a ready-made option under center while the rest of the group develops.

Harbaugh is a fan of competition. It's the lifeblood of his success in breeding winning football teams. So it's no surprise that he's taken as many players as he can at the position that has vexed Michigan the most in recent years.

"The more good ones you have the better," he said when asked how many is too many to manage at quarterback. "Right now we're throwing the balls out there and letting the fellas compete."

Rudock raises the level of competition at Michigan as soon as he arrives. Not only is he equipped to win the job, but he has also experienced both sides of a quarterback battle during his last two years at Iowa. He beat out C.J. Beathard for a starting spot before Beathard claimed it from him this January. Rudock will be able to pass on what he's learned to the rest of his teammates in Ann Arbor.

"Jake is going to go that extra mile," said Ken Mastrole, a quarterback specialist who has worked with Rudock for the better part of a decade. "I think the guys will see that and rally around that guy. He sets an example. He's not going to walk in and be a deer in the headlights."

Mastrole also tutored fellow Michigan newcomer John O'Korn, who is coming to Ann Arbor after two seasons at Houston. Rudock and O'Korn won state championships at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Florida. They were never teammates in high school (O'Korn transferred the semester after Rudock finished playing) but got to know one another well while training with Mastrole. Rudock won't have to compete head-to-head with his friend because O'Korn is ineligible to play in 2015. That gives both players a chance to help each other get settled.

"Both guys are just chomping at the bit," Mastrole said. "It will be a good opportunity to learn from each other and help each other in a situation where they'll at least have a familiar face."

O'Korn and Rudock are clearance-rack pick-ups for Michigan who could end up being a big value under Harbaugh. Both had impressive debut seasons (O'Korn won the American Athletic Conference rookie of the year award at Houston and Rudock helped Iowa to the Outback Bowl in 2013) before their situations soured the following year.

Bryan Baucom coached both as the offensive coordinator at St. Thomas Aquinas. He said O'Korn is a bit more mobile than Rudock, but both are built to be sturdy pocket passers in a pro offense like the one Harbaugh has run at previous stops. He sees their struggles last year as a potential blessing in disguise.

"Oh god, it's like hitting the lottery I think," Baucom said. "It'll be good for both those guys. Jake can help John through the process and they can work together. They're playing for a great coach in Jim Harbaugh. He's a quarterback guru and it can be nothing but positive for both of those kids."

Iowa followers grew restless with the conservative Hawkeyes offense under Rudock's watch last fall, but Michigan's coaches seem happy to have a game manager at quarterback during their first season. Passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch, who recruited Rudock to play for him at Miami in 2011, said the quarterback who completes the most passes and avoids turnovers will start for the Wolverines next year.

Rudock completed 61.7 percent of his throws -- second in the Big Ten -- for 2,436 yards and only five interceptions last fall. If he reproduces those numbers in 2015 while helping to lay the groundwork for a competitive group of younger quarterbacks behind him, he'll be remembered as the most important addition to Harbaugh's first team at Michigan.