There was a heavy, dark cloud hanging directly above the quarterback position—right over Shane Morris, Alex Malzone, Wilton Speight.
And deservedly so.
Morris was the only quarterback on Michigan’s roster with game experience at the collegiate level, but it’s nothing to marvel at: Five appearances in each of his first two seasons has led to five interceptions, no touchdowns, a 49.4 completion percentage.
You could argue that is literally the polar opposite of what it takes to run a Jim Harbaugh offense. Harbaugh prefers the quarterback who manages the game well, doesn’t turn the ball over and makes the right decisions. Most importantly, a quarterback in Harbaugh’s system understands what the moment is requiring of him—when to step up and when to step down.
What Rudock brings as a graduate transfer is stability. Proven stability. He’s proven for the last two seasons at Iowa that he isn’t going to blow you away with excitement. He plays simply and (in 2014) efficiently.
After redshirting and not seeing any game time his first two seasons, Rudock stepped on the scene in 2013 and struggled with turnovers. A tally of 13 interceptions isn’t terrible, but a one-per-game rate in major college football isn’t going to cut it.
Rudock significantly cut back on the turnovers last season, but the encouraging part is how he did it. Iowa didn’t tighten the collar and shorten the leash when he was on the field. (He split some time with C.J. Beathard.) Instead, he actually had more attempts per game in 2014 (28.75) than in 2013 (26.62). But he didn’t throw 13 interceptions again, he threw only five.
It would have been one thing if Iowa cut Rudock back and his turnover numbers dropped. That would’ve proven that he can only be effective when held back.
This is exactly what Michigan needs. There’s going to be a focus on running the football and not coughing it up. (To be fair, though, that’s the goal of 90 percent of teams at any level.) Which quarterback gives Michigan the best opportunity to do that?
It’s Jake Rudock. Without a doubt.
There’s another positive to Rudock’s transfer.
Examine Shane Morris. He’s heading into his junior season, has a modern-day cannon attached to his shoulder and (as shown in Michigan’s spring game) is improving. Can you look at this situation one year from now and reasonably predict Morris being beyond where Rudock is now?
If yes, or even it’s close, Rudock seems to be the perfect candidate to bridge that gap between now and then. Put Rudock in there for a year, get whatever comes out of him, and then you’re on to another senior quarterback in Morris.
Who knows where Morris is going to be in another 12 months? People sometimes forget how much he’s gone through during his time at Michigan: two head coaches, three offensive coordinators. And don’t forget about the notorious mishandling of his concussion. He’s been underwhelming thus far, but give him another season to grow and develop and compete—maybe it won’t be so bad after all.
And if you’re in any doubt at all, maybe this quote following the spring game will help turn you around or at least see a light in the dark.
After Harbaugh named him his No. 1 quarterback, Morris was asked about the number of quarterbacks on the roster. “You can bring in 100 quarterbacks,” he said. “It’s not going to matter to me.”
That’s the attitude that helps propel players forward. And maybe forward is only 12 months from now.
What Jake Rudock brings to Michigan in one way can be measured. But in another way, it can’t. The only important thing now is Rudock giving the Wolverines a better chance to compete this season.
Tyler Fenwick is the managing editor of The Big House Report. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.