Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has been cagey on the subject, perhaps, in part, to keep the Utes guessing, but a decision must be made soon since the Wolverines open next Thursday in primetime.
This we know — the competition is between graduate-transfer Rudock, a two-year starter at Iowa, and Morris, a junior with two starts in his career at Michigan.
While offensive lineman Kyle Kalis on Thursday suggested “everybody probably knows” who the starter will be, Harbaugh said he will release a depth chart on Monday, the same day as the Utes. But don't count on the depth chart to be entirely enlightening. Harbaugh first said the quarterbacks will be ranked, then suggested there could be an “or” between names, hence, offering little definitive.
Morris and Rudock met with media after practice on Friday and said nothing is set in stone.
“Just keep battling, doing the best we can, be the best quarterbacks we can,” Morris said. “Getting us ready to be the quarterback. Whoever it is, is going to be the best guy for this team.”
Both quarterbacks were asked Friday why they should be the starter at Utah.
“I think I’m ready,” Morris, the strong-armed lefty from Warren DeLaSalle, said confidently. “I’ve been preparing for this for a long time. I’ve put all the work in. I feel like I’m ready to be the starter.”
Said Rudock: “I don’t know if I can answer that. I think everybody is working hard. I think that’s the biggest thing. Hopefully I’ve done enough to help this team to win, and that’s the bottom line. Whatever is best for this time right now, that’s what we need.”
Harbaugh, a former Michigan and NFL quarterback, has developed quarterbacks throughout his coaching career. At Michigan, he must find one who, above all, protects the football. The Wolverines were minus-16 in turnover margin last season.
The Wolverines have said he provided an intense preseason camp and challenged every player at every position.
But quarterback, clearly, has been the most-discussed position battle.
“It’s great competition,” Morris said. “A lot of back and forth. Great days for both of us. Sometimes he has a better day, sometimes I have a better day. That’s really what it’s been like all of camp. Punches back and forth. It’s been awesome, it’s been great competition. It’s been crazy. He’s a good guy. We worked together, helped each other, became closer throughout camp.
Rudock bristled a bit when it was mentioned the knock on him during his Iowa career was his conservative style and that he didn’t go down field enough. Rudock was second in the Big Ten last season in completion percentage (61.7 percent) and had 16 touchdowns to five interceptions. He is less flash, and more about consistency.
“My game would be better explained by coaches and teammates,” Rudock said. “That’s opinions of whoever wants to make opinions. I just have to focus on moving the offense down the field, that’s the most important thing.”
He came to Michigan, mostly because of Harbaugh, after realizing he had lost his position on the depth chart at Iowa earlier this year.
“He has been there and (you) take what he says and trust that,” Rudock said. “He’s done this, he’s been here, he understand what it takes.”
Clearly, Rudock knows what it’s like to be an everyday starter.
It didn’t take long after his arrival following his May graduation from Iowa, to become acclimated to his new surroundings.
“He’s done a great job,” receiver Jehu Chesson said Friday. “It seems like yesterday he came on campus, but he’s embraced everything. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t hang his head low. Guys are excited to follow him, because he does things right. He comes in here with an attitude we need to win every day, we need to stack little wins. He’s just really embraced what coach Harbaugh has been teaching us.”
Chesson said Rudock began to emerge as a leader early in camp, although teammates respected him as soon as he arrived.
“Off the field, it didn’t take long at all,” Chesson said. “And on the field, in terms of making plays, you obviously need to know the playbook, so it’s not like he came here in the summer and, boom, he was the leader. Sometime during camp, like maybe the first week or so when he really knew his playbook and really started making plays on the field, guys started to look up to him, guys started to embrace him as a quarterback and also as a teammate.”
Rudock said it took getting comfortable with the playbook before he could surface as a leader.
“First couple days (of camp), it’s a lot going in,” he said. “A week in you start understanding and grasping it more. Maybe that’s what (Chesson) saw, and that’s always a good things when players around you see you as a leader.”
The bottom line is finding the quarterback to help Michigan rebound from a 5-7 season and turn around a program that has been slumping for the most part since 2008. Morris believes that will happen.
“We’re expected to be a lot better than last year, and we will,” Morris said. “We are going to be a lot better than last year.”