IOWA CITY, Iowa - At this time last year, we were entering into the great unknown at quarterback for Iowa. C.J. Beathard, Jake Rudock and Cody Sokol were vying for the No. 1 job, none of them having ever thrown a Division I pass.
Rudock emerged has the starter, helping Iowa double its win total from the previous season and showing a scrambling ability not many realized he possessed. Beathard finished second in the competition and played well in relief of the injured Rudock in several games, including a touchdown toss against LSU in the Outback Bowl.
Sokol left for Louisiana Tech in the offseason. He can play right away for the Bulldogs after graduating from Iowa.
The Hawkeyes should be improved at the sports most important position with two experienced players returning. The competition between the two figures to help.
Let's take a look at Iowa's quarterback position heading into 2014:
Contenders: Jake Rudock (6-3, 208), redshirt junior; C.J. Beathard (6-2, 203), redshirt sophomore; Nic Shimonek (6-4, 212), redshirt freshman.
The Favorite: Rudock started all 13 games last year and there's been no indication from the coaches that the Florida native is in danger of losing the No. 1 job.
Breakdown: Beathard outperformed Rudock in April's spring game leading some in the media and fan base to speculate that he might be the best choice for the job, proving once again that being the backup quarterback makes one a very popular guy. Again, a closer look fails to reveal head coach Kirk Ferentz or offensive coordinator Greg Davis hinting that Beathard is positioned to overthrow Rudock. And, Rudock looked better than his competition during the open practice earlier in the spring at West Des Moines Valley Stadium.
Perhaps Beathard is closing the gap on Rudock. The coaches know that based on what they see every day in practice and we're not privy to those workouts. I just don't see Beathard overtaking Rudock in practice. I think the Rudock would have to struggle for an extended period in games and Beathard would have to impress in practice and then deliver in games. I'm picturing a scenario like Ricky Stanzi overcoming Jake Christensen in 2008.
Iowa would benefit from more consistent play at quarterback in '14. Rudock is at the stage of his career where he should be counted on to make plays above just managing a game.
Rudock struggled with consistency as a first-year starter. Although he ranked fifth in the Big Ten in total offense (208.7 yards per game), he gave the ball away far too often. His 18 touchdown passes were offset by 13 interceptions, which included a 13-9 ratio in conference games. His 130 rushing yards in league play ranked him fourth behind Braxton Miller, Nathan Scheelhaase and Devin Gardner.
Beathard, likewise, was bitten by the turnover. The Tennessee product tossed one touchdown and two picks in relief work. Overall, he completed just 9 of 27 passes for 179 yards but did deliver 49 yards on 13 carries and two scores on the ground. On a positive note, his best game came against LSU when he proved true on 4 of 7 pass attempts for a touchdown and one pick. He rushed three times for 11 yards in that bowl game.
What's hard to predict is how Rudock and Beathard will mature. Players do it at different rates. Physically, Beathard holds an advantage. He owns a stronger arm and would win a foot race with Rudock. Those assets did not win the job for Beathard last year, however. Rudock held a better grasp of an involved playbook and got the most out of his natural talent. If both players reached their ceilings, perhaps Beathard wins out. But that's a big if.
Shimonek could be the most physically gifted of the trio. He's also well behind from a development standpoint. He might wind up being the future but he's unlikely a factor in the present, specifically '14. Likewise, incoming freshman Tyler Wiegers is looking at a redshirt campaign this fall to transition from high school to college.
While I wouldn't classify Iowa's quarterback position as being in great shape, I think it's solid. Rudock has shown a tendency to get hit and hurt and having a capable backup in Beathard is a better situation than most teams in the Big Ten.
RWI (Rob Worry Index): Faint.