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IOWA CITY — There was no nuance in Greg Davis’ statement Wednesday. Of course, Jake Rudock is Iowa’s No. 1 quarterback. He was last season and has grown his game this spring.
There was no wiggle room on that from Iowa’s offensive coordinator during a news conference. Rudock, a junior, is No. 1 and sophomore C.J. Beathard is No. 2.
“You know, the No. 2 quarterback is the most popular guy on any campus or any NFL team in the country,” said Davis, who’s beginning his third season at Iowa. “We’re very pleased with C.J., but we feel like at this point, Jake is definitely the guy.”
Rudock guided Iowa to an 8-5 record. He showed toughness in enduring a pair of knee sprains. He triggered an offense that often went to the line of scrimmage with three plays in hand, eyeing the defense for a tell.
Program-wide, there’s a high degree of confidence in Rudock.
“You have to earn it everyday,” Rudock said. “You have to earn respect from the team and the coaches everyday. When you walk in the building, you have to change the thermostat, the atmosphere. When you can do that, you have an idea you’re influencing the guys in the right way.”
Rudock is the guy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Beathard will take root on the sidelines in ‘14.
Davis also said Wednesday that Iowa coaches have talked about using two quarterbacks in games. It’s something Iowa hasn’t really done since 2001, when Kyle McCann and Brad Banks took turns, but it sounds as though it’s at least under consideration.
“It’s something that we have discussed as an offensive staff,” Davis said. “We will continue to look at it as something we want to implement next year.”
So, there’s that, for what it’s worth.
Davis also discussed Iowa’s offensive tempo. Last season, the Hawkeyes increased their number of plays from 66.08 in 2012 to 71.61. It’s a like Davis liked, but, of course, it’s not a panacea.
“There’s an advantage to playing tempo that everybody is aware of, but there’s also a disadvantage into sometimes you run plays into looks that you probably wouldn’t if your quarterback was up there making decisions at the line of scrimmage for you,” Davis said.
The streamlining process this spring has whittled Iowa’s playcalling to a single number. This could allow Iowa to gear up from a “no huddle” offense to “hurry up,” if it’s so inclined.
“Instead of doing all those signals, he [Rudock] just says ‘three’ and it’s one of our plays,” offensive tackle Brandon Scherff said. “It’s kind of nice turning around, getting a number and going.”
Davis noted Iowa’s improvement at wide receiver, a topic he raised when he arrived two years ago after serving as Texas offensive coordinator.
“Much greater,” he said when asked about the rise in the level of competition at the position. The names Davis mentioned were redshirt freshman Derrick Willies and sophomore Matt VandeBerg.
Defensive coordinator Phil Parker also had a news conference Wednesday. He gave updates on some of the competition on defense, calling linebacker a fluid situation, noting the rise of junior defensive end Nate Meier and saying it’s not over for senior Nico Law at strong safety, where he’s battling senior John Lowdermilk for playing time.
Parker said he feels he has four safeties who can play in Law, Lowdermilk, junior Jordan Lomax and sophomore Anthony Gair. Lomax made the jump this spring from cornerback to free safety. Parker said Lomax is looking for a comfort level.
“The free safety has to be the commander,” said Parker, who, with the departure of recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson this week, is the lone coach left from Kirk Ferentz’s initial Iowa staff in 1999. “He’s got to be a vocal guy and he’s got to be like an assistant coach on the field, and that’s what I expect out of him.”
After Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller broke down Iowa’s defense on third downs last season, Parker unveiled the “Raider” package, a third-down personnel group that traded defensive linemen for linebackers. Iowa had successes with it, and the Raider became a staple in the final half of the season.
Parker likes it and expects to use it again, but it might be tweaked. Last year, Parker wanted his senior linebackers (Christian Kirksey, Anthony Hitchens and James Morris) on the field at all times. They were his best players, and so they triggered the third-down blitzes.
Next year? Parker is still figuring out who’ll be his best in 2014.
“This year it [the Raider] might be a little bit more nickel [extra defensive back] or maybe even nickel/Raider type of deal, so it might put a defensive back in there instead of a linebacker,” Parker said. “We’re still making those decisions. Right now, we’re not that far along in our preparation. We still want to learn how to play first and second downs really well and see what we can do with our guys’ base fundamental stuff first.”
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