Michigan QB competition certain to heat up soon

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Jake Rudock

Michigan had three scholarship football players participate in spring football, and now that total of scholarship quarterbacks has doubled as they prepare for offseason workouts.

According to the University of Michigan student directory, transfers Jake Rudock and John O'Korn, and freshman Zach Gentry, are enrolled.

Rudock recently graduated from Iowa, where he started the last two seasons, and will spend his final year of eligibility in Ann Arbor, where he will pursue a masters degree in kinesiology. O'Korn, who like Rudock played high school football at St. Aquinas in Ft. Lauderdale, is a transfer from Houston but must sit out this fall. Gentry is an incoming freshman from New Mexico.

Junior Shane Morris, redshirt freshman Wilton Speight and Alex Malzone, an early enrollee freshman, were the only scholarship quarterbacks who practiced in the spring. Morris, according to coach Jim Harbaugh, emerged from spring practice as the No. 1 quarterback.

While Morris is the only returning Michigan quarterback with experience, having started one regular-season game last season and the bowl game in 2013, Rudock is more seasoned.

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 graduated earlier this month from Iowa with a degree in interdepartmental studies / multidisciplinary sciences.

Last season, Rudock threw for 2,436 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions and ranked second in the Big Ten in completion percentage (61.7 percent). Michigan's offense has struggled the last two seasons, and last year had 18 interceptions to 10 touchdowns.

How Rudock wound up at Michigan is intriguing. Earlier this year, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz 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 was given a "no strings attached" release from Iowa, and while graduate players can transfer to any school and be immediately eligible to play, intra-conference transfers in the Big Ten typically must sit a season, whether they are grad students or not. The Big Ten waived the transfer rule for Rudock.

Chris Spielman, an ESPN college football analyst, has worked a few games in which Rudock played, and he liked what he saw.

"He's a really good guy," Spielman said in a recent interview with The Detroit News. "In talking with him, obviously, he's really bright, with what he was studying at Iowa. He's a competitor.

"To me, and this is just from doing two games and watching some film, so it's a general observation, he's one of those guys when he's hot and going, he's really, really good. But he can make a few bad decisions here and there and can be erratic. If he's got it going, he can be really good. Jake is a good fit for Michigan."

Spielman said it would be a mistake to assume the starting job will immediately belong to Rudock.

"I don't think the Morris kid is going to roll over and play dead," Spielman said. "It's going to be an interesting battle. To me, the competition will make both guys better."

Shane Morris