IOWA CITY — There was a point a little over a week into fall camp when Damon Bullock could sense it.
Jake Rudock had gained an edge in the three-player race to become the new starting quarterback for the Iowa football team.
“He’s real steady in the huddle, never gets too up or too down, just plays football,’’ Bullock said Tuesday. “He knows the offense like the back of his hand and he’s a pretty smart guy. He’s in control.’’
Iowa coaches reached that same conclusion, allowing Rudock, a sophomore participating in his third fall camp with the Hawkeyes, to compete with redshirt freshman C.J. Beathard and junior-college transfer Cody Sokol until one week ago.
At that point, offensive coordinator Greg Davis pulled the quarterbacks together and told them collectively that Rudock had been selected to start behind center in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. season opener against Northern Illinois.
“I wouldn’t say I was surprised because I’ve prepared all along as if I was going to be the guy. That was my mindset,’’ Rudock said. “It was a great feeling, but I know I have to continue to work every bit as hard now as I did to get to this point.’’
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said during his weekly news conference that a steadiness in Rudock’s play presented him with the opportunity to replace James Vandenberg, the only quarterback to take a snap for the Hawkeyes last season.
“Consistency over the long haul (made the difference),’’ Ferentz said. “We were most interested in what happened once we got back in August. … Jake grabbed a bit of a lead and he has done a good job of building on that.’’
Rudock hasn’t taken a snap in a game since quarterbacking St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to a 15-0 record and a state championship in 2010. That season, he completed 157-of-242 passes for 2,827 yards and 36 touchdowns while being intercepted just three times.
The Hawkeyes’ new quarterback recalled that his high school coach, George Smith, described Rudock’s approach as “businesslike’’ at the time.
That hasn’t changed.
“He’s been consistent all along,’’ tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz said. “He showed last spring that he could play with the (first unit) and he continued right along with that. He doesn’t get rattled, real steady. Good plays or bad, he keeps on playing.’’
Beathard shares the second line on the depth chart with Sokol, but he will be prepared to take the field if the need arises.
“I’m preparing this week as if I’m going to play. That’s my job,’’ Beathard said. “We had a good competition, we all got a fair chance, and now our job is to support Jake and help him anyway we can. We also will continue to compete and push him every day in practice.’’
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Given the unique circumstances — Ryan Driscoll in 1994 was the last Iowa quarterback to start in his collegiate debut — Ferentz will give Rudock time to grow into his role.
“We’re going to let him play. He’s earned that over time. We have confidence in both C.J. and Cody, but Jake is going to play and we’ll let him go,’’ Ferentz said. “It’s like anything, we don’t want somebody looking over their shoulder. That’s not productive. He needs to be looking at what is in front of him.’’
Rudock plans to do just that.
“Ever since high school, I’ve been working to get a shot in college and hopefully this is just the beginning,’’ Rudock said.
He feels good about both the depth and quality of the skill players who surround him and about the strength of the line in front him.
Rudock does not expect a perfect beginning.
Juggling this week’s game plan with the first week of a fall academic course load which includes Organic Chemistry II and Physics I, the microbiology and pre-med major views that as unrealistic. However, he does expect Saturday’s body of work to create a foundation for the future.
“There will be mistakes, that is part of it, but hopefully there is more good than bad and it can be a productive beginning,’’ Rudock said. “I’m looking forward to be being back on the field. I’ve waited a long time for the chance.’’