Michigan's quarterback competition has become more layered and intriguing.
Jake Rudock, a two-year starter at Iowa, will be a graduate transfer to Michigan and immediately eligible to compete this fall, a source confirmed to The Detroit News on Wednesday. The story was first reported by ESPN.com. Rudock's path to Michigan initially had to be cleared by the Big Ten, which lumps graduate transfers with intra-conference transfers requiring them to sit a season.
The Big Ten waived that requirement in this case — graduate transfers are immediately eligible otherwise — allowing Rudock, who recently visited Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and his staff during spring practice in Ann Arbor, to make the move.
There are three scholarship quarterbacks participating in spring practice — Shane Morris, Wilton Speight and early enrollee freshman Alex Malzone — and Houston transfer John O'Korn, who played at the same high school in south Florida as Rudock, and freshman Zach Gentry also will be here this fall.
Rudock, who was given a "no string attached" release from Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, would give Michigan a quarterback with significant game experience. Only Shane Morris, who will be a junior, has game experience. Morris started the bowl game following the 2013 season and one regular-season game last fall.
Earlier this year, Iowa released a depth chart that had quarterback C.J. Beathard ahead of Rudock as the starter heading into spring practice. Rudock apparently took the hint and indicated his desire to transfer for his final year of eligibility.
"He's exploring some other options at this point, with our support," Ferentz told reporters last week. "Not our encouragement, but certainly our support. Until he decides what he's going to do definitively, we'll just keep him outside the program."
In his two years as Iowa's starter, he threw for 4,819 yards, 34 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. The 6-foot-3, 208-pounder took a pre-med curriculum and was academic All-Big Ten the last two years. He is a product of the very successful high school football program at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale.
George Smith was the longtime coach at St. Thomas Aquinas, which during his 34 years won six state titles and two national championships. He coached Rudock and O'Korn, who will be eligible in 2016.
O'Korn mentioned Rudock on Twitter Wednesday with a hashtag reference to St Aquinas where they both played in high school.
@JohnOKorn: Uhhhh ohhhh my boy Jake is joining me in Ann Arbor #STAtakeover
Smith told The News in an interview 10 days ago he had spoken several times to Rudock's father and said Rudock wanted to play at Michigan.
Rudock had a successful high school career, winning the Broward County Player of the Year as a senior in 2011. He led Aquinas to national title. O'Korn graduated from Aquinas two years later.
"He started 30 games for us, he was two-year starter as a junior and senior," Smith told The News referring to Rudock. "He holds a bunch of records, he's extremely smart. He was a backup in 2008 when we won our first national championship and was our quarterback when we won another.
"We played at Paul Brown Stadium, at Ohio State and at Cowboys Stadium, so he's been in big venues, and obviously played at Iowa. We have 12 kids on NFL rosters, more than any high school in the country, so he's been around those types of players here and in college. He's a very intelligent young man, quiet, soft-spoken, and a tremendous leader."
Smith had high praise for Rudock and O'Korn.
"Jake's a class act, as is John," Smith said. "I don't care what system it is, Jake will have that figure out in a week. Jake is a thin kid, long, lean type of guy and throws a nice ball. John is about the same size, a little taller. Our offense played to him. He could run a little bit, and Jake could run, too."
What set Rudock apart, according to Smith, was his locker room presence.
"We weren't an ordinary high school because we had so many good players," Smith said. "Jake and his center came up with this (motto), and it's up in our weight room. They said, 'You go, we go.' He pointed to each guy and said that, 'You go, you go, we go.'"
Michigan offensive coordinator Tim Drevno said after practice Tuesday that a frontrunner at quarterback has not emerged during spring practice, and he made clear he had no interest in rushing the process. The public will get a look at the quarterbacks on Saturday during the spring game at Michigan Stadium.
"They've all kind of taken their times as they stood out," Drevno said of the quarterbacks this spring. "We feel good about it."
Drevno seemed unconcerned a quarterback hasn't yet separated himself in the competition.
"(We're) not going to play a game until Sept. 3," he said. "There's a process to this, and that's what we've always done everywhere we've been. You take your steps and you go and keep working every day to be the best."