Schwartz: Jake Rudock, Iowa’s MVP

April 15, 2015

Written by David Schwartz

In basketball, one player can make all the difference. In football, less so. A lousy offensive line erases a great running back. What good is a pro-level weak-side linebacker if the mike calls the wrong reads?

Yet the future of Iowa’s football program might rest on the shoulders of one player. One player, far above any Hawkeye, will show us the way.

Jake Rudock.

Maybe the Hawkeyes find a seam this fall and stumble their way to 9-4 or 8-5. Maybe it’s Year 6 of the Mediocre Era and they finish anywhere from 5-7 to 7-6.

Doesn’t matter.

What does matter is what happens to Rudock, last year’s starter who somehow lost his job before/during the bowl game, who tried to win it back during/after the bowl game, and who somehow got dropped in the two deep during the university’s winter break. He transferred to Michigan. But let’s face it. Rudock could have transferred anywhere and Iowa fans would have understood. One can only let himself be jerked around so much.

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Iowa fans need Rudock to win the Michigan job. Here’s why:

  • If Rudock starts at Michigan and produces comparable results to his Iowa tenure, we’ll know that the Hawkeyes pretty much got the most they could out of him. No harm, no foul.
  • If Rudock starts at Michigan and stinks up the Big House – loses his job four games into the season – we’ll know that Iowa may have actually helped him exceed his potential. That puts the Hawkeye coaching staff in the sort of positive light they sorely need at this point in the Ferentz administration.
  • If Rudock starts at Michigan, excels in a more vertical passing game, challenges Ohio State for the East Division title, and Rudock begins to appear on NFL draft boards, we’ll finally have the genuine, tangible evidence that Iowa’s coaching staff needs an overhaul.

Two of Iowa’s recent-ish high-profile skill-position transfers, running back Marcus Coker and quarterback Jake Christensen, went to smaller schools in less competitive conferences. Their transfer schools (Stony Brook and Eastern Illinois, respectively) weren’t Big Ten schools – not even close. Michigan is a Big Ten school. That’s a legit comp.

For those highly critical of coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis, like myself, Rudock is a crucial experiment. He represents the potential for real change. Institutional change. Not “last-year stunk-hopefully-this-year-will-be-better-please-buy-season-tickets-and-we’ll-give-you-a-coupon-for-a-tee-shirt” change the Iowa athletic department sells you.

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What Iowa gives fans now are minor adjustments. A tweak of the assistant coaches. More time in the film room. As Iowa’s football chassis rusts, they offer duct tape.

Maybe it’s time for a new chassis.

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If Rudock doesn’t start in Ann Arbor, we’ll be stuck with more duct tape. If he starts and performs poorly, maybe it’s time we as Iowa fans re-adjust our expectations and criticisms of the coaching staff. I’m willing to eat crow if it means Iowa is winning.

But if Rudock starts – and if he succeeds – he might just be Iowa’s 2015 MVP.

Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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