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Quarterback conundrum

It probably was asking too much to expect a three-headed quarterback derby to turn into a one-man race over the course of 15 spring football practices. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz certainly thought so. Offensive coordinator Greg Davis expected it as well. And, the three players vying to replace James Vandenberg behind center certainly thought so. And today, the estimated 16,500 fans who soaked up a little April sun at Kinnick Stadium probably have a better understanding for the challenges Iowa coaches face as they work to select a starter. Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard all showed plenty of potential while at the controls of the Hawkeye offense. Each showed room for growth. Sokol threw for 183 yards, completing 13-of-18 passes, while Rudock connected on 18-of-28 tries for 174 yards. Beathard went 10-of-19 for 110 yards as well in the four-quarter scrimmage which concluded Iowa's spring drills. Rudock certainly left coaches with something to think about, hitting receivers on six straight passes in the final two minutes of the scrimmage to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Macon Plewa. The sophomore showed poise and confidence as he ran the rapid-fire two-minute offense. He also turned the ball over once on a drive that was nearing the end zone. Sokol, who fumbled an exchange as well, looked equally effective and equally inexperienced at times. To a degree, that is what April football is about, a chance to learn away from the pressures of the season, a chance to grow. Ferentz and Davis both seem comfortable with letting that growth continue as do the participants. "It's still early,'' Rudock said. "We've only had 15 practices. Nothing's settled. I don't think any of us thought that would happen. We will just continue to work.'' It's the work that takes place between now and the start of fall camp in August which may provide the separation coaches seek. Ferentz prefers to have at least an initial conclusion reached by mid-August, giving the team at least a couple of weeks to prepare with a set top quarterback before the Hawkeyes' Aug. 31 opener against Northern Illinois. Davis has worked with two quarterbacks into the opening weeks of a season before, something he is prepared to do again and something Ferentz would prefer to avoid. Although, history has taught the 15th-year Iowa coach that it is typically best to craft a depth chart in pencil instead of ink. He freqeuently reflects back to the spring of 1987, when three quarterbacks were battling to win the starting nod. "I was just a dumb line coach at the time, still am to some degree but with a different title, but the only thing coming out of spring ball that year that I was certain of was that (Chuck) Hartlieb was our No. 3 quarterback,'' Ferentz recalled. Hartlieb had other ideas and by the time that season ended, he had worked his way past eventual first-round draft pick Dan McGwire and Tom Poholsky and into the starting lineup. Hartlieb threw for 3,092 yards that year and led the Hawkeyes to a 10-3 season which ended with a 20-19 win over Wyoming in the Holiday Bowl. "You never know,'' Ferentz said. That's one reason Ferentz prefers to take the time that Iowa has - the opener is still four months away - to see what and who develops. He suspects that Iowa will be better because of it. History tells him that just might be the case.

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