IOWA CITY, Iowa – Jake Rudock’s announced departure from the Iowa program elicited mixed emotions in Tyler Wiegers. In one way, the young quarterback was presented with an opportunity. It also came at the expense of a mentor.
Rudock, Iowa’s starting signal caller the last two seasons, opted to graduate and transfer to Michigan this spring. The Florida native lost his job to C.J. Beathard in January when Coach Kirk Ferentz released an unprecedented depth chart shortly after the conclusion of the previous season.
An uncomfortable quarterback controversy came to an end with Rudock’s decision. Beathard stepped into the limelight as the clear No. 1 guy. Wiegers moved up his apprenticeship in becoming the uncontested back-up.
"I was excited because I knew I was going to get some reps, obviously," Wiegers said of hearing Rudock was leaving. "Jake was a great guy and I was sad to see him go, but I was happy that I was able to get a bunch of reps in spring ball. I think it definitely helped."
The 6-foot-4, 222-pound Wiegers red shirted last season, his first on campus. He was presented with the Team Leader Award on offense after running the scout team.
“The first part of spring was a little bit tough. He had a hard time actually getting the plays called and getting the guys to snap the ball and come off together. There’s something to that. You can do it in the meeting room but it’s different when you’re out there on the field. Every quarterback goes through that,” Ferentz said at the end of last month during Big Ten Media Day in Chicago.
“I thought the progress he made in the second part of spring was substantial. I know how he approaches things. He’s a really serious student, serious about everything he does.”
Wiegers road to Iowa followed an indirect path. He verbally committed to Rutgers during the spring of his junior year at Detroit Country Day School. He flipped that pledge to Iowa late in the fall of 2014 when he was senior.
A three-year letterman as as prep quarterback, Wiegers lead Country Day to the state playoffs each of those campaigns, including the championship game at Ford Field as a junior. He completed 122 of 192 pass attempts for 2,093 yards and 24 touchdowns with 200 rushing yards as a senior. He completed over 62 percent of his passes in his final two seasons.
"I feel most comfortable playing in the pocket, going through my progressions, but I feel like I’ve got enough ability where I can scramble a little bit. I’m not going to bust big, long runs like C.J. because he’s special. I just feel like I’m going to be making a lot of plays with my arm rather than my feet," he said.
As Ferentz alluded to, Wiegers started from the ground up in the spring. Like his coach, he felt good about his advancement up the ladder.
"Experience is the best teacher," he said. "Just getting in there every day, getting used to getting in and out of the huddle, getting up there and recognizing defenses quicker and then whatever Coach (Greg) Davis was telling me in meeting rooms, just trying to apply it on the field."
Beathard enters his fourth season in Davis’ offense. Despite starting just one game and seeing limited playing time overall, he’s aiding Wiegers’ growth.
"Me and C.J. have a great relationship. He’s always giving me pointers, helping me out. We throw together with the receivers and watch film together. It’s been great," Wiegers said.
Behind the top two quarterbacks are a pair true freshmen in Drew Cook and Ryan Boyle. The dynamic is turning Wiegers into a leader at an early stage in his career.
"All of us, me, C.J., Coach Davis, we try to help those guys out as much as we can," Wiegers said. "We’ll be in practice and if Coach Davis can’t answer the questions because he’s calling plays, they can come to me or C.J. We’ve been in it so we can help them out a little bit with that."
A year ago, like Cook and Boyle, Wiegers was a wide-eyed, first-year player just trying to find his way around campus. He believed he’s much better positioned now to contribute to the team.
"I’m a lot more comfortable. Last year, coming in, everything is brand new. You’re trying to get to the right place at the right time and then you have to go out there and practice against Big Ten players. I feel a lot more relaxed this year," he said.