After the graduation of former University of Iowa Hawkeye quarterback James Vandenberg, a void was left at the position for head coach Kirk Ferentz‘s squad. This week, Ferentz announced that redshirt sophomore Jake Rudock had won the battle and would start this week’s season and home opener against the University of Northern Illinois Huskies. Several doubts still linger about how long the Rudock era in Iowa City will last, and some of the conditions that may affect Rudock’s tenure under center are out of his control.
Under Ferentz, the Hawkeyes have actually done alright in seasons when a new quarterback takes the reigns of the Iowa offense, averaging 7.625 wins. Many of those years, however, the new quarterback was set up to succeed by taking over an offense filled with playmakers at the skill positions. Former first year Hawkeye quarterbacks have had the luxuries of playing with former Hawkeyes like Marvin McNutt, Tony Moeaki and Shonn Greene. Rudock gets no such favors done for him in his debut year as he takes over an offense that managed just 19 points a game last year.
Second-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis‘ scheme puts the ball in the hands of the quarterback and asks him to make quick decisions exponentially more than the system that previous Hawkeye first-year quarterbacks ran ever did. If the offense continues to struggle to score enough points to win, Rudock is sure to get more than his share of the blame. After a couple of interceptions, the way Hawkeye fans will talk about him, you would have thought Rudock had just punched their babies. It’s Iowa. Outside of wrestling, Hawkeye football is THE show.
Ferentz has shown that he is hesitant to make a change at quarterback but not wholly against it. In 2008 the Ricky Stanzi tenure began when Stanzi replaced Jake Christensen, who had become turnover-prone. In all other instances when the team got off to a rough start, Ferentz stuck with his original choice for the season. The fact that Rudock has never played in, much less started, a Big Ten football game may actually buy him some time. Inexperience comes with the blessing of patience. Facing defenses like Michigan State and Nebraska this year, there will be plenty of opportunity for Rudock to learn.
Rudock will be the quarterback throughout the season at Iowa because there are no better options right now. He will struggle to score points and win games, partially because of inexperience and partially because of a lack of playmakers around him. He will learn and if he wins the job again in 2014 be a better quarterback for it. If the expected happens, Rudock and Hawkeye fans will not endear themselves to each other in 2013.