A.J. Derby's in-season move to linebacker brought excitement over the prospect of him getting on the field sooner, but it also had a worrying downside: it significantly depleted Iowa's quarterback depth, especially come 2013 when current true freshman Jake Rudock was slated to be the only quarterback on the roster. As a result, landing at least one quarterback in the current recruiting class seemed like a virtual necessity. So it's good news -- something that has been in scant supply where Iowa football is concerned lately -- that Iowa has indeed added a quarterback to the 2012 recruiting class. Cody Sokol, a JUCO QB out of Scottsdale Community College, announced his decision to attend Iowa via Twitter on Saturday afternoon.
Sokol chose Iowa over offers from Arizona, Cincinnati, Maryland, and a handful of mid-major programs. His final decision was a difficult one between the in-state Wildcats and Iowa and, ultimately, Sokol may be the second quarterback recruit Iowa has landed in recent years because of a coaching change that involved Rich Rodriguez. Four years ago, Iowa was able to land John Wienke after Rodriguez was hired at Michigan and Wienke decided his skills were unlikely to mesh well with Rodriguez's preferred offense. (Given the struggles endured by Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet in the early days of the RichRod Era at Michigan, he was probably right.) Of course, now RichRod is staking his claim to the southwest at Arizona and, once again, his offense is a turn-off for a recruit who's looking for a chance to play in a pro-style offense.
Sokol is a 3* recruit at Rivals and 247Sports and a 2* recruit at Scout (ESPN hasn't graded him yet) and has solid QB measurements (6-3, 210). He was a second-team JUCO All-American this year, thanks to a phenomenally productive season: 253/424, 3807 yards, 43/10 TD/INT. He seems to be elusive in the pocket as well, if Rob Howe's comparison of him to Drew Tate is accurate. As far as quarterbacking skills go, highlight films don't give a full picture, but he seems to have a good arm and the ability to drop some pretty passes into his receivers' hands. In addition to the highlights up top there are several more on YouTube; just search for "Cody Sokol."
While it's been a while since Iowa has dipped into the JUCO ranks to find a quarterback prospect, it's certainly not unheard of in the Ferentz Era. Iowa's last JUCO quarterback was Nathan Chandler, a behemoth of a quarterback with an occasionally erratic arm who guided Iowa to ten wins primarily by staying out of the way and letting Robert Gallery, Fred, Russell, and a fearsome defense do their thing. Chandler's predecessor at Iowa was also a JUCO quarterback -- Brad Banks. Perhaps you've heard of him? Banks had such a brilliant year in his one season as starter that he finished 2nd in the Heisman Trophy voting and won the AP National Player of the Year Award. Adding a JUCO quarterback is also a smart way to address the experience issue that was also a concern with the quarterback position. If Iowa had landed a true freshman quarterback prospect this year they would have been faced with the possibility of a 2013 depth chart that contained a redshirt sophomore (Rudock) and a redshirt freshman (Hypothetical Quarterback X); adding a JUCO prospect mitigates that experience concern to an extent.
The other big question is: when will Sokol play? James Vandenberg's unimpressive play down the stretch in the 2011 Iowa season (particularly the final two games of the season) might have opened the door a crack for someone else to get a crack at the starting quarterback spot. (Considering Wienke has more interceptions than completions at Iowa, it's probably not going to be him.) Conversely, Sokol could also redshirt in 2012, compete with Rudock for the starting job in 2013, and still have two years of eligibility to play for Iowa. Sokol himself says both options are on the table:
"I know the coaching staff wants competition so I’m just going to go in and compete and do my best," Sokol said. "I might redshirt so I can learn the offense and just develop with the system, but you never know what’s going to happen."
My guess is that unless he proves to be absolutely sensational at the spring or summer practices, he'll be using that redshirt in 2012. Whether he plays or not, though, he's definitely a welcome addition to this recruiting class and a means of addressing the lingering issue of quarterback depth. And if he can legitimately challenge Vandenberg and either win the job or push JVB to improve to another level, so much the better. Welcome aboard, Mr. Sokol.