Michigan Football Preview 2016

2016 Michigan Football Preview

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 9 of 179

8 ■ THE WOLVERINE 2016 FOOTBALL PREVIEW C ritics will occasionally point the finger at a head football coach and accuse him of playing favorites, not giving a challenger a fair shot, etc. The quarterback who threw for more than 3,000 yards in his only season under Jim Harbaugh insists there's no such consideration on the Michigan practice fields. Whoever emerges under center at Michi- gan Stadium Sept. 3 will have completely earned it, according to Jake Rudock. "You guys have to figure that out about Harbaugh," Rudock stressed. "He does not care. If you take care of your stuff off the field and you can play on the field, you're going to play if you're the best guy out there. It's as simple as that." Rudock proved to be the best guy a year ago. He remained so, even after tossing three interceptions in a narrow defeat at Utah in the season opener. In addition to absolving Rudock of blame on at least one of those throws, Harbaugh assured — forcefully — that Michigan had the right player under center. Ten wins later, nobody questioned him. Rudock, who was drafted by the Detroit Lions in late April, will certainly be look- ing in on Michigan's fortunes in the fall. He doesn't intend to butt in on the present quarterbacks, but promised to be available to them if they so desired. "I'll keep in touch with them," he said. "If they want some advice, I'll give it to them. If I see they've had a hard day, I might talk to them. For the most part, it's just letting them play ball and not letting them think too much. If they ever have any questions, they can come to me. "Let them go. They're their own people, and I'll just be available." Redshirt junior John O'Korn received plenty of input over the course of the 2015 season, given that he roomed with Rudock. "I hope he learned," Rudock said with a smile. "You want the older guys teaching the younger guys. Maybe [he learned] my demeanor and how I went about things. But John and I are very different guys, and he'll be the first to point that out." Rudock deftly declined to draw any dis- tinctions between the main contenders for the starting job. He also stressed, echoing Harbaugh, that nothing had to be settled in the spring. "I just see parts of practice," Rudock said. "I've seen every single quarterback do some- thing good, and I've seen every single quar- terback do something bad. "Guys can compete, and usually competi- tion will breed better athletes, better players. Everyone is going to want an answer after 15 practices, but you don't need one yet. That's a good thing. "At the same time, sometimes as a quar- terback you want to know, because you ap- proach it differently and not look over your shoulder. But whoever is playing the best, that's who is going to start and play." Rudock himself improved greatly over the course of the 2015 campaign, in terms of Michigan's offense, he acknowledged. He had to come in and learn very quickly, which isn't much different than the task with which he's now faced. The only difference is, nobody is expect- ing him to come in and start for the Lions. "The biggest thing would be just picking up an offense," he said. "It's kind of like the way the NFL is. You come in over the sum- mer, trying to learn it, go through fall camp, learn the offense and go play. It's picking up new terminology and being able to apply it quickly." O'Korn, redshirt junior Shane Morris and redshirt sophomore Wilton Speight all have an advantage in that area. All were on hand during Harbaugh's first season, getting to understand the system, although O'Korn spent considerable time on Michigan's dem- onstration squad, mimicking the offenses of opponents while sitting out due to NCAA transfer rules. Rudock saw all three of those players in practice last season. He laughingly acknowl- edged no privilege in terms of getting to name his successor. "No, and I don't want that job," Rudock said. "If I wanted that job, I'd be a [graduate assistant] and going into coaching. I can sit back and say who I think, but I don't watch all the film. I haven't seen how they react after something bad happens. "A big thing is how someone reacts after a good play and after a bad play. A neutral play, there's usually no emotion. But how does he react after he throws a pick? How does he react after he throws a touchdown? That's a big telling sign of how the quarter- back is." — John Borton Jake Rudock Says Rest Assured, The Best Man Plays MICHIGAN FOOTBALL Even after Rudock tossed three interceptions in last year's season-opening defeat at Utah, head coach Jim Harbaugh kept him as his starting QB because he deemed him the best man for the job. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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