Jake Rudock Transfer Shows Jim Harbaugh’s Michigan Vision


The impending transfer of former Iowa Hawkeyes quarterback Jake Rudock to Michigan is a telling indication of Jim Harbaugh’s immediate plans for the Wolverines. Rather than knock down the smoldering wreckage left behind from the failed Brady Hoke experiment, Harbaugh is trying to win now.

Michigan is not a program that will wait for the slow build in a new coach’s vision — that became plainly evident when Rich Rodriguez was fired after just three seasons. But, by cutting ties with Rodriguez just as his vision for the program was starting to form, Hoke was left with a roster ill-suited to what he wanted to do.

Nowhere was that more evident than at quarterback. For all his talent, Denard Robinson was always the square peg former offensive coordinator Al Borges was trying to jam into a round hole. It worked enough for Michigan to win 11 games in 2011, including the Sugar Bowl, but it ultimately precluded the program from every really establishing its offensive identity.

By adding Jake Rudock, Jim Harbaugh is making both a quick fix, while also establishing his long-term vision for Michigan football.

How is that possible? Well, to the former, Harbaugh is inheriting one of the most veteran rosters in college football. Michigan returns 17 starters from last year’s team. The Wolverines have the veteran savvy to compete in the Big Ten — likely not at the level of rivals and defending national champions Ohio State or in-state counterpart Michigan State, but certainly with the conferences other tier of teams, like Penn State.

Yet, because quarterback play was so shaky under the previous regime, Michigan is not equipped to slot a returner such as Shane Morris into the starting role and succeed right away. With two seasons starting at Iowa, Jake Rudock is a better fit to operate alongside the Wolverines’ many experienced starters.

It helps that Harbaugh is not married to a very specific kind of quarterback. His best team at San Diego was built around dual-threat playmaker Josh Johnson, and he succeeded in San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick playing more of a freelance style.

Those two are polar opposites from the NFL GM dream Andrew Luck, who led Harbaugh’s Orange Bowl-winning Stanford team in 2010. That season was the culmination of Harbaugh’s quick turnaround of a program in even more dire straits than Michigan finds itself currently. Stanford’s success then is also a positive sign for Michigan as it pertains to both Jake Rudock, and the program’s future at quarterback.

Harbaugh could have hot-shotted Andrew Luck into the starting role as a true freshman in 2008, and perhaps made a bowl game. But playing Luck before he was ready could have hindered the quarterback’s long-term development. Harbaugh instead relied on a run-heavy approach that took the ball out of Tavita Pritchard’s hands, and put in Toby Gerhart’s and Anthony Kimble’s 330 times.

Michigan’s struggles to consistent rush in recent years are well-documented, so adopting a similar strategy in 2015, with the returning Morris functioning primarily as a hand-off man, is not feasible.

Make no mistake: Rudock will not come into Ann Arbor and light the world on fire with his passing. But he is an adequate stop-gap who gives Michigan just enough passing to be functional, while allowing offensive coordinator Tim Drevno and quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch time to prepare a quarterback of the future.

Houston transfer John O’Korn is one candidate, but Jake Rudock ensures the Michigan has time to pinpoint who exactly is the best fit to run the Wolverines’ beyond 2015.