CHICAGO – There is no script to follow, so Kirk Ferentz will simply let Iowa’s starting quarterback candidates create their own fate.
Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard will join other Hawkeye veterans in reporting to camp on Sunday then hit the practice field Monday to continue to battle for the opportunity to start in Iowa’s Aug. 31 season opener against Northern Illinois.
Ideally, Ferentz would like one of the three to emerge by mid-August as the leader of the group that is working to replace the only quarterback to take snaps last season for the Hawkeyes, James Vandenberg.
Realistically, he knows that might not happen.
“We’ve had it work both ways. We’ve had guys step to the forefront right away and we’ve had years where it wasn’t settled until a few games into the season. In ’08, it took several games before (Ricky) Stanzi moved into the starting role,” Ferentz said. “You just don’t know.”
Currently, all three share the top line on the depth chart at the position and none has taken a snap in a game at the collegiate level.
Rudock, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound sophomore, has been part of the program for the past two seasons. He led St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to a 29-1 record over two seasons as a starter, passing for 2,827 yards and 36 touchdowns while completing 157-of-242 passes as a senior.
Sokol is a junior college transfer who redshirted last season. The 6-2, 215-pound Phoenix native passed for 3,807 yards and 43 scores as a sophomore at Scottsdale Community College, where he earned all-region honors.
Beathard is a 6-2, 195-pound redshirt freshman from Franklin, Tenn., where he led the state in completions, passing yards and touchdowns as a junior and senior, throwing for 2,148 yards and 23 touchdowns in his final season at Battle Ground Academy.
A true freshman, 6-4, 196-pound Nic Shimonek of Corsicana, Texas, threw for 2,714 yards and 33 touchdowns in addition to rushing for 850 yards and 17 scores as a senior at Mildred High School . He reports with other newcomers on Saturday, but will begin his career behind the other three candidates on the depth chart.
When the Hawkeyes hit the practice field Monday morning, the quarterbacks will be given equal work with the first, second and third units as they were during Iowa’s 15 spring practices.
“There is no blueprint for this thing. You have to be fair to the players involved in the competition, and fair to the team,” Ferentz said. “My suspicion is that things will look a little different in August than they did in April. The entire team will. We will assess that as fast as we can and work through it accordingly.”
Ferentz said providing an equal number of reps for each quarterback with the first unit is easier when two quarterbacks are vying for the starting spot.
“Having three in the race, it’s not easy,” he said. “It’s easier with two, but that is not the case.”
Ferentz said his only expectations entering the start of fall camp are that each of the three will have improved since they were last on the practice field with coaches in late April.
“You can’t predict it, but looking back on things after going through a spring where they were really running the offense and looking at film all summer and then seven on sevens, I would assume they are all farther down the road,” Ferentz said.
Ferentz and Iowa coaches will be looking for that growth as well as consistency in execution as the Hawkeye quarterbacks work their way toward the middle of August.
What transpires will involve more than what the player behind center does as well.
Ferentz points to a more experienced group of running backs and the potential he sees in the offensive line as reasons to support that belief.
“It will be a matter of what they do in camp, but that will also be based on how the rest of the team supports them,” Ferentz said. “Whomever is playing quarterback this year has a good chance to be better supported than James Vandenberg was last year.”