Assume the Position is our offseason guide to the Iowa Hawkeyes football depth chart. The math is difficult, so take it from us: As time moves on, we'll know more. That's why we rank the positions from most certain to least certain.
Previously on Assume the Position 2013:
1. Tight End
3. Running Back
4. Defensive Tackle
6. Offensive line
Welp, we're calling it. This race is over.
The Choice of a New Generation
Jake Rudock (#15, Sophomore (RS), 6'3, 205 lbs., St. Thomas Aquinas HS (Ft. Lauderdale, FL))
After Saturday's performance, we're comfortable with what we always presumed: Jake Rudock is the starting quarterback for Week 1, and will remain there until further notice. So what do we know about Iowa's newest quarterback, other than that he's never taken a snap in a college game?
Rudock was the quarterback on a de facto high school national champion. In 2010, with Rudock under center, St. Thomas Aquinas won 15 games and a Florida state championship, sent fifteen players to FBS programs, and produced four four-star recruits. In his two years as a starter, Aquinas went 29-1; in his four years in the program, they posted a 58-2 record and won three state championships. For his part, Rudock received a boatload of accolades: National Player of the Year from USA Today, South Florida Player of the Year from the Sun-Sentinel, Offensive Player of the Year from the Miami Herald, and Broward County Player of the Year by whoever gives out that award. He set Aquinas single-season and career records in nearly every relevant passing stat: Completions, attempts, total yards, passing touchdowns, efficiency rating, and completion percentage. He played on ESPN almost as much as Iowa did in 2010.
Of course, Rudock had plenty of help. His top target, Rashad Greene, has been Florida State's top receiver since the moment he stepped on campus. Second receiver Phillip Dorsett started 10 games for Miami last year and caught 58 passes for 842 yards. Marcus Roberson, who will start at cornerback this year in Gainesville, lined up across from him every day in practice, as did former NIU corner prospect Khambrel Garland. Suffice it to say, Rudock had more raw receiver talent at his disposal in high school than he does in his first season as a starter in college.
It might be that constellation of talent around him and his stick-figure frame -- Rudock was only 190 pounds when he left Aquinas -- that kept recruiters at a distance. Rudock had offers from Wisconsin and Memphis in hand when Iowa got in the game, offering Rudock a spot as he completed his junior season. Florida's top programs had settled on other targets by then: The Gators already had two commits, Jeff Driskel and Jacoby Brissett. Florida State opted for Mobile, AL's Jacob Coker. Miami was in shambles and didn't take a good look, despite the fact that the Hurricanes were chasing many of Rudock's teammates. With the quarterback dominos falling quickly, Rudock committed to Iowa on July 1. Al Golden, the newly-installed Miami head coach, took a run at Rudock after his stellar senior season, but Rudock's commitment held.
With Vandenberg and A.J. Derby on the depth chart already, Rudock's redshirt was inevitable. Then came Derby's transfer, and Ken O'Keefe's decision to leave (coincidentally, for south Florida), and suddenly Rudock was the only available backup in a brand new offense. He was going to play as a redshirt freshman. After all, is it even possible for a quarterback to take every snap in a season without getting injured, struggling, or getting pulled during a blowout?
For a reason known only to him, Kirk Ferentz decided to prove that it could be done. And while James Vandenberg took every snap of the horror show 2012 Iowa campaign, Rudock waited and watched as Iowa added a junior college transfer and another freshman to compete with him and had to wonder why the staff had no faith in him. It's certainly a valid question, and one that will probably never be answered.
What little we have seen of Iowa's 2013 offense looks more like the system Davis ran at Texas, which isn't going to hide Rudock. All indications are that Rudock has the smarts and arm strength to make this offense work, and that the common narrative of the quarterback battle -- that Rudock was the traditional pocket passer, while Sokol was a scrambler -- sold Rudock's ability as a runner short. If Rudock can indeed run this offense in its entirety -- no huddle, shotgun, zone read running, sight reads, etc. -- we have faith that things are going to get better. If he can't, we're not sure of anyone who can. So we -- and Ferentz and Davis, more than anyone else -- live or die with a guy we've never seen before. If Davis and Ferentz are willing to do it, we'll join in.
While You Wait for the Others
C.J. Beathard (#16, Freshman (RS), 6'2, 195 lbs., Battle Ground Academy (Franklin, TN))
Iowa picked up Beathard at the last second, pursuing him after the Ole Miss commit reopened things following the firing of Houston Nutt. Rumor has it that he might possess the best raw quarterback attributes of anyone on the roster: Cannon for an arm, some speed and agility in the running game, pro quarterback pedigree. But this is a system that chews up first-year quarterbacks and spits them out like used sunflower seeds. He'll get his chance, but it might be a little while.
Cody Sokol (#19, Junior (RS), 6'2, 215 lbs., Scottsdale (AZ) C.C.)
The bigger question is: What happens to Cody Sokol? He's a year older than Rudock, with a redshirt already burned and no obvious route past the starter beyond simply beating him out. So say you're Sokol. The first depth chart of the season lists you with your redshirt freshman roommate as co-backup to a sophomore for a coach that refused to bench one of the nation's most ineffective quarterbacks last season. You can leave now and play somewhere else as a senior, or you can hold kicks. John Wienke held kicks. I don't know if Cody Sokol is wired like Wienke.
Nic Shimonek (#9, Freshman, 6'4, 195 lbs., Mildred HS (Corsicanna, TX))
He's got a future here as long as Davis has a future: Davis picked him out of the crowd and brought him north, and both he and Ferentz have praised him play this August. But there's no way he sees the field in 2013 with the logjam in front of him. In fact, 2014 and 2015 are long shots. It's a redshirt this year and some serious understudy work for the foreseeable future.