Ann Arbor — Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t mince words supporting his starting quarterback, Jake Rudock, who has been the target of criticism through three games.
Rudock, a graduate transfer from Iowa where he started the last two seasons, has five interceptions, equaling his total from last season, and a fumble. He has missed open receivers, though the Wolverines are 2-1.
And that’s the most meaningful statistic for Harbaugh.
“To be clear, Jake Rudock’s the best quarterback,” Harbaugh said. “Not by a small margin. He’s our best quarterback.”
Rudock graduated from Iowa in May before joining the Wolverines to begin offseason workouts and seven-on-seven drills.
The offense is evolving, Harbaugh said, and there are multiple pieces to the puzzle as the Wolverines work to establish their personality. He’s moving pieces in the running game and trying to get everyone involved in the pass game as he determines his best players.
“When it comes to the precision of the passing game and the timing, that’s something we’re all working together at, and it’s the responsibility of everybody,” said Harbaugh, who played quarterback at Michigan and in the NFL, and knows the intricacies of the position, its responsibilities beyond running each play and being the biggest target of criticism.
“I feel it’s divisive when you just pull out one name and just keep hammering there. I hope that’s clear — he’s our best quarterback.”
Receiver Jehu Chesson said he’s shouldering much of the blame for route timing, saying that’s on the receivers more than the quarterback. He also praised Rudock, saying his presence in the huddle is one of being in complete control.
“It’s really difficult if a quarterback comes in huffing and puffing and can’t really say what the wristband says,” Chesson said. “He does a great job of that. Those are just little things I look at. It gets pretty bad if a quarterback is really tired or doesn’t understand the call.
“But the biggest thing he does do well, he gets us out of bad plays at the line of scrimmage. Those are some things I can’t even see (because of their) fronts and their shifts. ... Getting us out of those would-be bad play calls, it’s a great necessity for a quarterback to have.”
Offensive lineman Ben Braden said Rudock’s transition to his new teammates and offense has been seamless.
“It feels like he’s been here the whole time ever since I stepped in here as a freshman,” Braden said. “It’s good to have that sense of friendship and leadership and that family aspect with him and the rest of us as a team.
“It was a really smooth transition. He came in with the mindset he’d learn as quick as possible. ... We had the same mindset as well learning the new offense. When we got together it really worked. We were all on the same page. ... It could have been rough, but it’s really good.”
Harbaugh put a fork in Rudock questions, saying it takes an entire offense to make a play click.
“We’re all working at it together,” Harbaugh said. “He’s throwing to 13 different receivers — that’s good that we spread the ball out. The timing in the passing game, the detail, the precision that’s required, it takes time on task.”
Rudock beat junior Shane Morris, the leader coming out of spring practice, for the starting position. But in two late-game situations, to kill the clock against Oregon State and with less than five minutes against UNLV last weekend, redshirt freshman Wilton Speight has played.
Morris, Harbaugh said, will be preserved this season for a redshirt opportunity unless there’s a game situation where he’s needed.
“The nature of the position, you get too much glory when you’re doing great and too much ridicule when you’re doing bad,” Chesson said. “(Rudock) has a very level head. Things are going to click for us, I really do believe it.”