IOWA CITY – Standing in the middle of two large grass practice fields, no more than 10 feet separated quarterbacks Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard from each other as they fielded questions Thursday at Iowa’s annual football media day.
That’s nothing new.
The race between the three to become the Hawkeyes’ new starting quarterback remains just that close.
“I have no idea how it’s going to play out. None of us do,’’ Sokol said. “It’s been a little different because we all want the same thing, but we’re also helping each other as much as we can. It’s a competition, but we’re on the same team.’’
Working through their second fall camp together, Sokol and Beathard are roommates. Sokol transferred to Iowa from Scottsdale Community College in Arizona and the junior is the oldest of the three while Beathard is a redshirt freshman.
Rudock, a sophomore who has used his redshirt year, is the vet four days into his third fall camp at Iowa.
None has taken a snap in a Division I game.
“We’re all chasing the same thing and when the coaches talk about things being even, that’s the way it’s been,’’ Rudock said. “I think we’re all getting better, I know we’re all working hard, but I think we’re doing our best to leave the coaches with a difficult decision.’’
The Hawkeyes are four days into fall camp and are just now preparing for their first workouts in full pads.
All three quarterbacks are getting an equal number of repetitions as coaches look for some separation to dictate who will replace James Vandenberg.
“It’s not something any of us has been involved in before and the coaches are doing what they can to give us all an equal chance,’’ Beathard said. “We’re all competitive. We all want the same thing and I think we could all do the job.’’
Second-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis believes that, too.
He said all three quarterbacks have grasped additional wrinkles that were added to the offense during the spring and have demonstrated that they have retained that knowledge since returning to camp.
Davis’ preference is for one of the three to secure the job with his performance during the openings weeks of fall camp.
He also has been around long enough to know that sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.
“We’ve had teams where we’ve gone with a rotation a couple of games into the season and by halftime of the second game, we knew who the guy was,’’ Davis said. “We’ll see how this one plays out. You never know.’’
Davis said each of the candidates in Iowa’s first three-way quarterback derby since Kyle McCann, Brad Banks and Jon Beutjer competed for playing time in 2001 share a number of traits.
“They’re all bright guys, all guys who can make plays with their feet and who have the skills it take to lead our team,’’ Davis said. “There is just not a lot of difference there.’’
Two items top Davis’ priority list when it comes to ultimately deciding who will take the first snap from center in the Hawkeyes’ Aug. 31 season opener against Northern Illinois.
First, he said the individual must take care of the football and second, he wants Iowa’s quarterback to possess the ability to make the explosive play, terminology Hawkeye players have heard repeatedly since the start of spring drills.
“It’s not quite as simplistic as that, but that is the bottom line,’’ Davis said. “We’ll be looking at things like when the potential for the explosive play is there, did he take advantage of it, did he see it and miss it or did he not see it at all? Those all factor into it.’’
Rudock worked as Vandenberg’s backup last season and benefited from receiving additional repetitions in practice and preparing as if he were the starter each week.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said that extra work provides Rudock with a bit of an edge, albeit a small one.
“To me, it’s not like everybody else is really chasing him. It’s not one of those situations,’’ Ferentz said. “Every player needs to take what they do best and use it to their advantage, and Jake does that. The key thing for all three of the guys is what they do in these 20-some practices before we get to game week.’’