IOWA CITY — Nic Shimonek is pushing for a spot in the depth chart, C.J. Beathard is pushing Jake Rudock and Jake Rudock is pushing himself to get better.
But when push comes to shove, the competition for starting snaps at quarterback on the Iowa football team remains a race led by the incumbent one week before the Hawkeyes host their spring game at Kinnick Stadium.
Rudock started all 13 games the Hawkeyes played last season and now healthy after dealing with a late-season knee sprain, he continues to top the depth chart as he has since securing the starting job prior to the 2013 season opener.
The 6-foot-3 junior who threw for 2,383 yards a year ago, completing 59 percent of his passes while throwing 18 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions, isn’t taking anything for granted.
“Coach (Kirk) Ferentz always says you have to re-earn your spot every year,’’ Rudock said. “You can’t just walk out onto the field and expect to be where you were. You have to keep moving forward and getting better each day.’’
Rudock returned to his home state of Florida during spring break, but traded time on the beach for time on the field.
He worked during the week-long break in March with quarterback coach Ken Mastrole in Fort Lauderdale, a private coach who has tutored Rudock since his sophomore year at St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
“It was kind of like going in for a check-up,’’ Rudock said. “He sees things on film and we go over different things. It was a good week of work. I can always get better.’’
Beathard is working to do the same.
The 6-foot-2 sophomore completed 9-of-27 passes for 179 yards in limited action as Rudock’s backup a year ago, a situation the all-state quarterback from the Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tenn., described as “humbling.’’
“You really do learn a lot,’’ Beathard said. “It’s crazy when you come out of high school, you’re the big guy. Then, you go to college and you find yourself back at the bottom and you have to work your way back up. It’s humbling.’’
Beathard now uses that as motivation, trying to grow his knowledge of the game as his patience is tested waiting for an opportunity behind Rudock.
This spring, he has worked to use his abilities more within the framework of the Hawkeye offense.
“Last year and in summer camp, I was always wanting to take the big shot downfield even when their might have been an open ball underneath,’’ Beathard said. “That’s one thing I have gotten better at this spring.’’
Beathard and Rudock share the belief that consistency in performance is what ultimately is rewarded with playing time.
Rudock sees room for growth as well, seeing a need to make quicker, more decisive decisions.
“I want to be able to come to the line and if I see something fuzzy, I want to be able to get us into a safe play where we can get something positive,’’ Rudock said. “I have to keep working.’’
Ferentz said following last week’s open practice in West Des Moines that he has seen growth from each of Iowa’s quarterbacks this spring, adding that Shimonek as a freshman is “on a different tier’’ than Rudock and Beathard as he learns during his first spring at Iowa.
“We feel good about all three of those guys,’’ Ferentz said. “It’s a good situation, very different from where we were a year ago at this time.’’