Jake Rudock is the safety net Michigan needed at quarterback this upcoming season.
Quarterback has been Michigan's shakiest position group as the Wolverines prepare for the 2015 season. Of the three scholarship signal-callers that are on campus for Michigan's spring practices, former five-star prospect and junior Shane Morris is the only one with collegiate game experience because the other two -- Wilton Speight and Alex Malzone -- are freshmen. But, notwithstanding Morris' promise as a high-school recruit, he has struggled in his limited time on the field. In 10 career games, he has completed less than half of his passes and thrown five interceptions to zero touchdowns. Though Morris has a flamethrower for a left arm and can make all of the throws, he has yet to learn when he should make the safer throw and toss the change-up rather than try to force a big play.
Throughout Michigan's spring practices, which come to a completion this Saturday when the Wolverines run through the Michigan Stadium tunnel for their annual spring game, Jim Harbaugh has been waiting for one of Morris, Speight, or Malzone to separate themselves from the pack and develop into a solid starting quarterback. However, by all accounts, this has not happened. It's been reported that Morris and Malzone have pulled ahead of Speight, but neither Morris nor Malzone has shown the consistency in making the right throws and taking care of the football that Harbaugh wants from his starter. This was a troubling sign for Michigan's first season under Harbaugh because a lackluster quarterback has the ability to sink what could be a talented Michigan team.
But, with the news that former Iowa quarterback and fifth-year senior Rudock will transfer to Michigan, where he will be eligible as soon as he steps on campus, this is no longer a concern for Michigan -- or at least a troubling one. Not only does Rudock bring starting experience to the quarterback position -- he started in all 25 games he played in for Iowa the past two seasons -- he also is a solid Big Ten quarterback that can take care of the football. Last year, Rudock completed 213-of-345 passes (61.7 pct.) for 2,436 yards (7.1 YPA) and threw 16 touchdowns to only five interceptions. For context, Michigan's quarterbacks threw 10 touchdowns to 18 interceptions last year. And, if we discover that Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis, whose offenses tend not to allow receivers to run routes more than six yards downfield, put the restrictor plate on what Rudock is capable of, quarterback guru Harbaugh should have no problem allowing Rudock's engine to rev.
Best-case scenario: Rudock is the best Big Ten quarterback other than the trio of nightmares Ohio State has at their disposal, Connor Cook, and Christian Hackenberg.
Worst-case scenario: Davis didn't limit Rudock's potential at Iowa, and Rudock is a so-so quarterback, which is a delight compared to what Michigan's situation was yesterday.
And, yet, Rudock is not guaranteed to be the starter for Michigan at Utah this fall. Though he should be the favorite to take the first snap this season, there still is the chance that Morris, Malzone, or Speight improve drastically during summer workouts and fall camp and win the job, or that incoming freshman Zach Gentry is a revelation.
And that's fine.
Michigan did not need a quarterback that was a full-blown superstar, though that would have been a nice present to receive. All Michigan needed was a quarterback that was solid, a quarterback that could come into the program and start right away, and a quarterback that could prevent Michigan's passing game from falling into a pit of despair.
Michigan needed a safety net. And the Wolverines have it in Rudock.