Rudock meshing with younger receivers

BY CODY GOODWIN | APRIL 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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A lot has changed for Iowa’s Jake Rudock since the end of the 2013-14 college football season.

During this year’s spring practices, he’s wearing a brace on his left knee for precautionary measures. He lost one of his favorite targets, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz — who accounted for 30 catches, almost 300 receiving yards, and 6 touchdowns last season — to the NFL draft.

More recently, Rudock became enough of a celebrity to where someone created a fake Twitter account in his name.

“I thought it was funny,” he said and smiled.

But perhaps the biggest difference between this spring season and last is that Rudock, after completing nearly 60 percent of his passes for more than 2,300 yards and 18 touchdowns during 2013, knows he has a job — or so goes the assumption.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz said after the 2014 Outback Bowl that this off-season would be a time for an open competition between Rudock, the starter for all of the 2013 season, and C.J. Beathard, who received some playing time in place of an injured Rudock in the final two games of the season.

For now, though, Rudock appears to have a slight advantage in the quarterback race, if only because of the experience he gained during the 2013 season.

During the beginning of a practice open to the media March 26, Rudock partook in drills with teammates who will more than likely be listed as first-string guys — namely Mark Weisman at running back, Kevonte Martin-Manley and Tevaun Smith at wide receiver, along with Ray Hamilton at tight end.

But even more, Rudock has taken the initiative to better both his decision-making and precision with the younger receivers and running backs in an attempt to build chemistry and rhythm. This tactic, said Rudock, helps with their preparation as well as their learning of the playbook.

“The most important thing is to get the entire team ready,” Rudock said.

The building of chemistry between quarterback and receiver is an important aspect of any offense, of course, especially one that features 14 ball-catchers that are either freshmen or sophomores (between receivers and running backs).

“It’d be a good thing to [spread the ball around],” Weisman said. “Just feed the hot hand out there.”

It’s even more crucial if Rudock is to be the starter for the next two years, when many of those younger classmen will rise to claim starting positions on the roster.

“Probably one of our more experienced offensive groups coming back,” Ferentz said. “But hopefully, it’s a more fluid operation, more productive operation than we’ve had over the last few years and I think it will be.”

Indeed, the offensive will be more experienced for the 2014 season. Of the 11 starters from the 2013 season, eight are returning for the upcoming fall, whereas there are just five returning starters from last season’s defense.

But helping the myriad of younger receivers is allowing Rudock to progress — even if it means he’s playing teacher more often than not.

“It helps knowing you can bring them along a little bit further,” Rudock said. “It helps them understand that they have to come out exactly at this angle, or there’s no way we can get the ball to you.”

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