COLUMN: QB Rudock gives Hawkeyes hope for future

Let me be clear: Jake Rudock is not this generation’s version of Chuck Long or Chuck Hartlieb. He’s not Brad Banks reincarnated either. Heck, he’s probably not even on par with Matt Rodgers or Drew Tate.

Any Iowa Hawkeye football fan older than the age of 35 will understand what I’m talking about. (Here’s a hint: They’re all former Iowa quarterbacks who most longtime fans hold in high regard.)

In all likelihood, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore quarterback in charge of Hawkeyes’ offense is never going to be up for the Davey O’Brien award as the nation’s top signal caller, and Mr. Heisman will never call his name.

And all of that is OK. Really, it is.

Right now anyway, Rudock doesn’t have the pure passer’s motion of a Long or Hartlieb. He lacks the athletic instincts of Banks and the swagger of Tate.

And, again, all of that is OK. Really, it is.

Rudock is the type of quarterback where what you see is what you get, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Just three games into his career as a starter, Rudock has put together plenty of moments that allowed Hawkeye Nation to think, ‘You know, this kid could be our QB for the long haul.’ There have also been those moments (cough, cough, late interception in the loss to Northern Illinois and cough, cough, the pick-six in the fourth quarter against Missouri State) that left everyone who bleeds black and gold pulling out whatever hair they have left.

In reality, this is all to be expected.

After not taking a single snap a season ago – a fact that still leaves me wondering what head coach Kirk Ferentz and his staff were thinking as Iowa limped to a 4-8 record in 2012 – Rudock has been more than adequate so far this season.

Does he have the strongest arm? Nope.

Is he the most mobile quarterback in the country? Nope.

But dig deeper and you’ll realize he does possess maybe the key asset that every big-time college football quarterback needs.

He gets it.

Rudock came to Iowa as one of the nation’s top 30 prep QBs after leading St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) to a national championship during his senior season. He was that team’s Most Valuable Player, so it was obvious early on the kid had skills.

So far this fall he’s completed 61.4 percent of his passes (54 of 88) for 609 yards and three touchdowns. OK, he’s throw three interceptions, too, but he’s also rushed for four more scores.

His presence in the pocket was evident in Iowa’s 27-21 win over Iowa State on Saturday. Yes, Iowa relied on a bull of a running back in Mark Weisman to do the heavy lifting, but Rudock did much more to help the team than hurt it and right now that’s good enough.

Iowa does need to learn to finish drives, and Rudock’s average of just 6.3 yards per pass attempt is below average, to say it kindly. But is that really his fault?

The reality is that Iowa lacks playmakers on the outside. That was a big reason – arguably the biggest – why the Hawkeyes took a nose dive a season ago during James Vandenberg’s final season at quarterback and not a lot has improved over the past nine months.

Kevonte Martin-Manley has been Rudock’s go-to receiver with 19 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown against the Cyclones on Saturday. But no other receiver or tight end has more than six catches.

Game planning to defend Iowa won’t be difficult for Big Ten opponents; it will be stop Weisman left, stop Weisman right and stop Weisman up the middle.

Is Iowa that predictable? You bet, but one reason is because teams have no fear – zero, zip, nada – of the Hawkeyes burning them on the perimeter and with deep balls. And that’s not Rudock’s fault.

Manley is a good receiver, but would he make the two-deep at Oregon? Probably not.

I know, I know … Iowa isn’t Oregon. But you still get my point.

Either fans have been sold a clunker in tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz or offensive coordinator Greg Davis simply has no idea how to utilize him. Fiedorowicz is often touted as a potential NFL talent, and yet he has just six catches through three games? What’s more, Iowa barely targets him.


And what about junior college transfer Damon Powell, a speedster who was supposed to be Iowa’s weapon against loading the box. So far, Powell on the field is a lot like driving through Kamrar (population 198) – blink and you just might miss it.

These are the issues that Rudock is forced to deal with and my instincts tell me he’s navigated the choppy waters pretty dang well so far.

There’s no doubt that Iowa has some holes, many big enough to potentially keep them out of a bowl game for a second straight season.

But I like the future at quarterback. Really, I do.