Since taking over as Michigan Football’s head coach, Jim Harbaugh has been creating a culture of competition. He wants players who are hungry and willing to work harder than they’ve ever worked before. One way Harbaugh has been able to create more competition is by bringing in graduate transfers to compete for starting jobs. In the process he has likely found the starting quarterback for his inaugural season as Michigan’s head coach. He’s also found projected starters at cornerback and punter. So who are these guys?
A two year starter at quarterback for the Iowa Hawkeyes, Rudock opted to transfer to Michigan for his final season. It was announced in January that Jake Rudock would not be Iowa’s starting QB for the upcoming season, but that’s not the only reason he transferred. The chance to work with Jim Harbaugh and his coaching staff was also an opportunity too good to pass up. Rudock is often described as a “game manager” at quarterback and his style has been compared to that of Brian Griese, who piloted the Wolverines to their last national championship in 1997.
Last year, Rudock ranked second in the Big Ten in completion percentage (61.7%), fourth in pass efficiency (133.5) and sixth in passing yards per game (203) and total offense (217.7). He also had the fewest interceptions (five) among Big Ten quarterbacks with 250 or more attempts.
Rudock adds much needed depth to Michigan’s quarterback stable. “I expect there will be very good competition. He’s a player who is hungry to compete,” Harbaugh said in a teleconference. “It’s good for him academically and very good for him athletically with the opportunity to compete for a role, whether that be a starting role (or not), I know that’s where his goals are aligned. I’m excited to watch it go down.”
Rudock projects as the starter at QB for Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines this season. He is the only quarterback on Michigan’s roster to have thrown a touchdown pass in a collegiate game. His presence will also give freshmen Zach Gentry and Alex Malzone time to develop. Remember, Harbaugh redshirted Andrew Luck in his first season at Stanford.
Wayne Lyons appeared in 43 games at cornerback for Stanford, recording 128 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss. He also had three interceptions, three forced fumbles and three pass breakups. Additionally, Lyons notched five tackles against Michigan State in the 2014 Rose Bowl.
Lyons was brought in because his physical playing style is what Michigan’s new coaching staff covets in a cornerback. “We are excited about the addition of Wayne Lyons as a post-graduate student and defensive back on our football team,” U-M secondary coach Michael Zordich said in a statement. “He brings great experience and ability to our secondary and special teams units. In addition, Wayne is a super individual who will achieve great things both on the field and in his future career.”
Expect Lyons to start at cornerback and for him to be one of the leaders of what should be a very good defense at Michigan.
When Jim Harbaugh first looked over his new roster at Michigan, he certainly took notice of the fact that the entire roster had a combined one career punt. Enter Australian born punter Blake O’Neill who punted 62 times for Weber State last season. O’Neill’s 62 punts accounted for 2,737 yards, good for a 44.1-yard average. He had 18 punts of 50 yards or more, and he had 25 punts inside the opponent’s 20-yard line.
“We are looking forward to having a player of Blake’s level of maturity, background and skill set – growing up playing Australian rules football – in our program,” Michigan special teams coordinator John Baxter said in a statement. “Australian players have made a big impact on college football in the kicking game, like last year’s Ray Guy Award winner, Tom Hackett from Utah. We are looking forward to the impact that Blake will have on our team and within our conference.”
O’Neill not only projects as Michigan’s starting punter next season, but he may be the best punter in the Big Ten.
More on the way?
There very well may be more grad transfers arriving in Ann Arbor this summer. Specifically, Michigan’s coaching staff is looking to add depth at wide receiver.
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