IOWA CITY — Jake Rudock and James Vandenberg have so much to talk about.
Who’s the best organic chemistry professor? What about microbiology, any suggestions there? What are you going to do with those used Medical College Admissions Test prep books?
“We actually do talk about classes more than you’d think,” Rudock said. “What about this? Who do I not want [for a professor]? Who do I really have to avoid? Who do I not have to worry about?”
Of course, there’s also the football.
The Iowa quarterbacks are on similar paths in football and life. Vandenberg is the veteran on the field, 3,022 yards and 25 TDs last season. He’s also a fifth-year senior academically and a integrative physiology major who plans to take a run at the MCAT and medical school.
Rudock, a 6-3, 200-pound redshirt freshman, is the rookie. As a senior at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Weston, Fla., he led his team to district, regional state and national titles with a 15-0 record. He took a redshirt in 2011 and now is poised for a run at No. 2 quarterback with junior-college transfer Cody Sokol also in that mix.
Iowa has been lucky in QB health. In the last five years, Iowa QBs have missed less than three games. The cautionary red flag is up at No. 2 simply based on experience. Vandenberg has 499 career attempts. The rest of the depth chart, might as well throw in true freshman C.J. Beathard and walk-ons Kyle Anderson and Dan Hartlieb, has zero.
Yes, this has first-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ attention.
“He’s an ankle away,” Davis said of whomever wins No. 2. “Right now, Jake and Cody are both working with the second group. We’re kind of splitting their reps. At some point as we start scrimmaging and as camp goes on, we’ll start making some decisions about who is going to be the No. 2 guy. They are critical, no doubt about it.”
Without any sort of profile beyond the fences of the Kenyon Practice Facility, Rudock (pronounced RU-doc) isn’t feverishly measuring who gets what repetitions in practice. He takes a more analytical approach.
“It’s all about preparation,” Rudock said. “If you’re not studying, you’re not going to do well on the test. There are very few people in the world who can actually do that. And even then, somewhere along the line, they had the studying done earlier.
“So, you need to prepare and you need to prepare correctly. You can prepare for five hours, but if you’re really only studying for one, it’s not going to get the job done.”
Quality reps over quantity. That’s the kind of answer you’d expect from a three-year member of the National Honor Society and microbiology major.
Rudock comes from a long line of analytical minds. His father is a lawyer. His oldest brother is in the first year of his medical residency, specializing in pediatric neurology. His sister graduated from Florida State with a master’s degree. His mom, a second-grade teacher, also has a master’s degree.
Rudock has his eye on pediatrics, even though Vandenberg tried to talk him out of it during his campus visit in 2010.
“He was a very serious student and very interested in med school and biology and the science track. I was kind of right in the heat of it when we talked, and I tried talking him out of it immediately,” Vandenberg joked. “He’s super intelligent and works super hard. He’s going to be able to do whatever he wants.”
Rudock has pressure to perform in this camp. Davis would like him to claim the No. 2 spot, so Sokol, who has three years to play two seasons, can redshirt and return in ’13 with full knowledge of the playbook.
“If it were a perfect scenario, you’d like to redshirt Cody because Jake already redshirted and then they both can come in during spring and battle from there,” Davis said. “In a perfect world, that’s what we’d like to do.”
Davis put the “ankle away” phrase out there. Vandenberg and Rudock could probably diagnose the ankle, but could Iowa live through the absence of Vandenberg?
This is where the academic metaphor wears out its welcome. Microbiology isn’t football. An organic chem test doesn’t happen in front of 70,000 with a defensive end from Nebraska trying to decapitate you.
Vandenberg joked about grades with Rudock. This statement punctuates the path they’re on and the fact that one is at the very beginning and the other is a fifth-year senior.
“He’s just a freshman. He hasn’t hit all the hard classes yet,” Vandenberg said. “Eventually, he’s going to have to play and go to school and that’s not very fun.”
A CLOSER LOOK AT IOWA QUARTERBACK
The depth chart
No. 1 — James Vandenberg, sr., 6-3, 212; Nos. 2 — Jake Rudock, #fr., 6-3, 200 and Cody Sokol, jr., 6-2, 205; The rest — C.J. Beathard, fr., 6-2, 180; Kyle Anderson, #fr, 6-3, 210; Dan Hartlieb, fr., 6-1, 155. #= redshirt freshman
James Vandenberg’s biggest job this season might be translation. He’ll be the Rosetta Stone for first-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ offense. There have been signs in spring and fall camp that the Hawkeyes will push the pace this season, a strategy that saw mixed results in 2011. So, Vandenberg’s first and maybe most important assignment will be moving things along. Davis has said he wants the offense ready with 18 seconds left on the 35-second playclock. Vandenberg’s numbers in ’11 sparkled. The call now is for those to match up with the win column, which, of course, includes more than just the QB.
The No. 2
If Vandenberg skates through the season — which has been the norm for Iowa QBs — it doesn’t matter much who wins No. 2. Ideally, Davis would like redshirt freshman Jake Rudock to nail it down, so junior Cody Sokol, a junior college transfer, could redshirt and return in ’13 with two seasons to play. A.J. Derby, who transferred after the season, had the second most attempts last season with six. Go back four more seasons, the No. 2 QB had eight, 87 (Vandenberg in for two and a half games for injured Ricky Stanzi), 63 (Jake Christensen before he was displaced as starter) and one. Iowa’s O-line is solid, but this is football. Davis will be sweating the No. 2.
Cody Sokol had seven offers, including Arizona and Maryland. At Scottsdale Community College — yes, the Fighting Artichokes — he threw for 3,807 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He earned first team all-region, first team all-conference and second team all-America. “We were air raid and shotgun, not a whole lot of play action,” Sokol said. “I like to throw the ball. I feel like I can make plays with my feet, but I want to pass.” C.J. Beathard committed to Mississippi, but then Ole Miss dumped Houston Nutt and hired Hugh Freeze, who planned on more of a zone-read attack. Iowa was a better fit for Beathard, a pro-style QB. Iowa recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson said, “He’s got very good feet, very good mobility. He’s a good athlete. He’s been successful from a drop-back standpoint. Very smart kid. We were very impressed.”