Since Jake Rudock's summer arrival at Michigan, he and Shane Morris have been cordial, but not much more
When Michigan football preseason camp opens today, all eyes will be on the quarterbacks. (Well, those eyes allowed into Jim Harbaugh’s “bunker.”)
But the quarterbacks have had eyes on each other for a while.
Harbaugh has mentioned only two QBs the past two weeks: spring leader Shane Morris and fifth-year Iowa transfer Jake Rudock. The coach said he’s impressed with how they’ve led and worked.
As for how they’ve meshed?
Whoever gets the job will get his attention. But a rotation is unlikely. So, since Rudock’s summer arrival, they have been cordial but not much more.
“We have a relationship. We’re both trying to improve each day. All the quarterbacks — everyone on this team is trying to improve. Competition’s a good thing,” Rudock said Thursday at football media day. “Competition is always a good thing, so it’s helping.”
Asked to describe their relationship, Morris stepped carefully.
“Competitive, very competitive in everything we do,” Morris said. “Whether it’s meetings, practices, with our team-led practices, workouts, everything’s a competition and going to continue to be a competition. We both want the same thing. It’s really going to come down to who wants it more.”
It’s a change for Morris, who understood that he was the backup the past two years.
“Devin (Gardner) was more of a mentor to me,” Morris said. “I came in, and he was the quarterback. So it’s going to be different.”
The current situation isn’t as passive for Morris, and he has no hesitation saying that.
“I’m approaching this as it’s my job to lose,” he said. “I really feel like I can be the quarterback of this team. I’m going to go out there and do everything possible in practice, in workouts, in meetings, and compete in everything I do.”
Spring ball wasn’t much of a competition, basically just Morris with two years of experience and two starts, against true freshman Alex Malzone. Morris separated and was praised entering the off-season but had no promise.
“We’re wide open. We’re going to have a wide-open competition,” passing game coordinator Jedd Fisch said. “Shane won the spring, I guess you would say, and we’re past the spring. Now it’s a brand-new competition for the fall. Guys are healthy, guys are back, new guys are in. So, that was the spring competition, and we’ll start all new now.”
That tenuous hold was reinforced when Harbaugh and Fisch gladly accepted Rudock.
Was Morris threatened by someone with four years of college and two years of starting experience at a Big Ten school?
“It’s just another guy, it’s another guy in the room, and we’ve got a lot of guys in the room,” Morris said.
Neither quarterback has any idea how he’ll be evaluated and the time line with Harbaugh, Fisch and offensive coordinator Tim Drevno.
The traits of Fisch’s ideal quarterback: “Confident. Accurate. Consistent. Leader. Winner.”
“Give me a guy that fits those five criteria, and we’ll have a good fall,” he said.
Morris is known for his powerful arm but has struggled in his two starts — the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl and last year’s debacle against Minnesota, which ended in him re-entering the game with an undiagnosed concussion.
Rudock has more of a track record, including throwing a Big Ten-low five interceptions last year. He did that in 345 attempts. Morris has five interceptions in 87 career attempts. Rudock finished second in the conference in completion percentage.
“The biggest (lesson) is just take what the defense gives you,” said Rudock, whose lack of downfield attempts was a frequent Iowa criticism. “A lot of times people want to air it out all the time. But if they’re dropping 4-5 guys deep, you’ve got to take the sure completion and get the ball to the athletes.”
But this is all business.
“We’re cool with each other off the field, we’re friends,” Morris said. “But when we get on the field, the pads are on, it’s going to be a competition, cutthroat, and that’s the way I am.”
Starting practice, they both know their opponent for the next three weeks.
And it’s clearly not Utah.
A few highlights of what coach Jim Harbaugh said during Michigan football media day Thursday as the team prepared for its first practice today:
ON INTRODUCING THE SEASON: “The first day, tomorrow, you’re so excited. It’s like New Year’s. It’s like the start of the new year. It’s like your birthday, the first day of school. It’s all those things rolled into one. It’s like being reborn into football. Like coming out of a mother’s womb into football. You’re in a nice, warm cozy place and you’re reborn, you come out into chaos, lights and everybody looking at you. And it’s wonderful. ... Cleats on the cement walking over here. It’s the fresh-cut grass. The early morning, seeing the sun come up and know you’re going to be doing football all day. ... It’s very emotional.”
ON SETTLING POSITIONS IN CAMP: “The beautiful thing about football, as our old coach Bo Schembechler used to say: ‘Live clean, come clean, be clean.’ The part of about coming clean always resonated with me. Coming clean is telling the truth. When you’re a step onto a football field, never is that more evident that the truth is going to get told. Who’s best prepared? Who wants it the most? Who’s the most talented?”
ON THE HUBBUB OF ATTENTION AROUND HIS EVERY MOVE: “I don’t know that there is. Is there? I just coach the team.”
ON BEING FAMILIAR WITH ANN ARBOR: “I think it’s going well. Knowing where things are, I didn’t have to use a GPS to get around the town. All that has been good. It cut drag. It saved time.”
ON THE QUARTERBACK COMPETITION AMONG SHANE MORRIS, JAKE RUDOCK, WILTON SPEIGHT, ALEX MALZONE AND ZACH GENTRY: “It shouldn’t be complicated. I really believe it’ll be fair, and I’m excited to watch it. You can stay out of a lot of things, you can chart a lot of things to measure. But when it comes down to it, I’m just going to observe. You learn a lot by just watching.”