Friday, May 23, 2014
Rudock the smart choice for Iowa at QB
By Adam Rittenberg
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Let's explore Jake Rudock's football smarts, shall we? You already know about the book smarts, at least if you've been paying attention.
Anything written or said about Rudock notes that he's a brain. The Iowa junior quarterback is a microbiology/premed major and an academic All-American who, before making his Hawkeyes debut last fall, broke down his organic chemistry class for a group of reporters whose chosen profession had steered them as far away from classes like organic chemistry as possible. He mentioned stereoisomers and other head-spinning terms.
Most football players want nothing to do with team doctors. Rudock, who wants work in pediatric medicine, picks their brains and hopes to shadow some of them. It doesn't hurt that Iowa's Kinnick Stadium is located across the street from University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, one of the nation's 50 largest public hospitals. Rudock wants to volunteer there in pediatrics this summer.
"He's a very bright guy who has taken classes that I certainly can't tutor for him," Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis told ESPN.com. "I'm not sure anybody on our team or staff could tutor for him."
Jake Rudock's smarts in the classroom started to translate on the field in 2013, something Iowa hopes continues this season.
But enough about Rudock's academic aspirations and achievements. Iowa fans care mainly about the 12 exams that await Rudock this season, his second as the team's starting quarterback.
If Rudock excels on the field like he does in the chem lab, more tests could come for a Hawkeyes team with high expectations in 2014.
"He's a really intelligent guy," Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said. "He's a football-intelligent guy, too. Sometimes there's not always a correlation. In his case, he's good both ways."
Rudock's football wisdom should help as Iowa expands its offense in Davis' third season. Iowa averaged nearly five more plays per game in 2013 than it did in 2012, and Davis intends to further ramp up the tempo and broaden the playbook.
There's little Davis can throw Rudock's way that Rudock hasn't seen before. He operated from numerous formations as a quarterback for Florida prep powerhouse Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas.
"We'd go three receivers wide," Rudock said. "Then we'd run the veer out of the gun, the option under center, zone schemes, lead schemes, pulling guards, pulling guard and tackle, all that stuff. We used a lot of different screens, all that good stuff."
Bryan Baucom, the offensive coordinator at St. Thomas Aquinas, adds a few more to the list: classic pro set, shotgun empty, Oklahoma-style wishbone.
"If it was invented," Baucom said, "we were running it."
Rudock ran it well, setting a host of records at St. Thomas Aquinas, including career touchdown passes (73), single-season passing yards (2,827), career completion percentage (64 percent) and, most important, career victories (31). Davis didn't recruit Rudock to Iowa but was impressed watching how his high school moved seamlessly from a spread formation to two backs to something else.
Iowa might not be known for multiplicity on offense, but things could be changing with Davis calling plays and Rudock calling signals.
"He's pretty comfortable with a bunch of different ways to play the game," Davis said.
Rudock's comfort level showed this spring after a season where he put up first-year starter numbers: 2,383 pass yards, 18 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 59-percent completions. He had highlights, like a game-winning touchdown strike to C.J. Fiedorowicz in overtime against Northwestern, but also plenty of mistakes.
Being good but not great might seem alien to a high achiever like Rudock. But he not only put in the work to improve, but embraced the grind.
"In the classroom, it all doesn't just come to me," he explained. "Just like in football, it all doesn't just come to you. You have to put the effort to watch that film, meet with coaches, try to further understand things and not just understand the first layer but the second and third tiers."
Baucom never remembers yelling at Rudock because the quarterback knew right away if he missed a read or a coverage. Rudock started practicing with the Aquinas varsity as a freshman after his junior-varsity season concluded. The strong-minded, skinny quarterback was a "great huddle guy," Baucom recalled, who teammates easily followed.
"He's a smart kid, down-to-earth kid, never too high, never too low," Baucom said.
"I remember finding out and being like, 'Well, that's good,'" Rudock said.
Well, that's good? No primal scream? No backflip?
"It was more a sigh of relief," Rudock said. "It makes you feel safer back there."
Rudock should feel fairly safe as Iowa's starter, but the coaches also see a role for C.J. Beathard, who appeared in five games last season and stood out in spring ball. Davis came away "extremely pleased" with Beathard this spring, noting his big arm and his lateral quickness.
Iowa historically has been a one-quarterback team, but Beathard could be used in a package of plays built around the zone read.
"I wouldn't rule it out," Ferentz said.
The competition shouldn't faze Rudock. Few things do.
"If you're not working, somebody else is," he said, "so it's important not to ever be satisfied with where you're at."
Rudock committed to Iowa in July before his senior year of high school, picking the Hawkeyes ahead of Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota, among others. When Miami hired Al Golden that December, the new Hurricanes coach pursued Rudock, but the quarterback stayed firm with his pledge.
He hasn't looked back.
"He knows what he wants to do with his life," Baucom said. "He had a plan in place and he's following that plan. He wanted to go to one of the top medical schools, That’s why he picked Iowa. He wanted to play Division I football. He accomplished that."
It doesn't take a microbiology major to identify the next item in Rudock's plan -- a Big Ten championship.