April 25, 2014
- Spring Camp Central
- 2014 Outback Bowl Central
- Read the April issue of Hawk Talk Monthly
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly iOS app
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly android app
- Hawkeyes in the NFL
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPhone/iPad app
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye android app
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Hundreds of plays are run during the course of a 2 ½-hour football practice. The result of one was all University of Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock and wide receiver Matt VandeBerg could think about Wednesday.
“He put the ball a little outside and I looked a little late,” said VandeBerg, a sophomore from Brandon, S.D.
“We missed it by a few yards and we want to hit every single ball,” said Rudock, a junior from Weston, Fla.
So, after practice, Rudock picked up a ball, VandeBerg toed the line of scrimmage, and the duo worked, and worked, and worked on the same pass pattern that went awry hours earlier.
“It’s a combination of both of us wanting to get better,” VandeBerg said.
“If that helps the team, then more power to you,” added Rudock.
Rudock and VandeBerg are friends off the field and they share chemistry on. As a true freshman last season, VandeBerg played 11 games and caught eight passes. Look for both numbers to increase in 2014.
A reason is comfort — for both quarterback and receiver.
“I feel real comfortable when Matt’s in the game because we do a great job communicating,” Rudock said. “I know where he’s going and he knows what I’m thinking. That’s important to have guys on the same page, especially with the pass game.”
“I am a lot more comfortable in the offense,” VandeBerg said. “In the fall, everything was kind of a whirlwind trying to learn things. Now that I know them I can actually go out and execute at a higher level.”
“I see that he is getting stronger, he is doing a better job with his technique in terms of his rip and his body position, things that are just going to help get him open. He has more confidence, because he has been through the battles. I see tremendous growth in him, because he’s not trying to figure things out. His mind is not locking and he is playing more natural in his position.”
UI receivers coach
Like most positions on the Hawkeye roster, Rudock and VandeBerg are in battles for playing time. As the returning starter, Rudock has a leg up on sophomore C.J. Beathard. Last season Rudock completed 59 percent of his pass attempts for an average of 183.3 yards per game.
VandeBerg exits his first spring camp listed as No. 2 at one wide receiver position behind senior Kevonte Martin-Manley. Martin-Manley returns as the team’s leading receiver with 40 catches for 388 yards. Six different Hawkeye receivers are listed on the depth chart at three positions. There are several talented redshirt freshmen fighting for game time as well.
“It’s a good situation because you never know if your spot is cemented or if you need to work harder,” VandeBerg said. “I think everybody feels that. They feel the little tingles on their neck because somebody is coming up behind you and you need to make sure that each day you go out that you get better. That makes the team better.”
VandeBerg came to Iowa after a record-setting career at Brandon Valley (S.D.) High School where he caught 136 passes for 35 touchdowns. As a senior, VandeBerg compiled 65 receptions for 1,080 yards, and 18 touchdowns.
The original plan was for VandeBerg to join the Hawkeye program as a grayshirt in the spring of 2014. He was going to stay in South Dakota, assist his high school coach, and enroll in online classes. But a scholarship became available four days before fall camp opened in August of 2013 and VandeBerg jumped at the opportunity.
Since arriving in Iowa City, VanDeBerg has added 10 pounds to his 6-foot-1, 175-pound frame, and he would like to gain 10 more.
“I see that he is getting stronger, he is doing a better job with his technique in terms of his rip and his body position, things that are just going to help get him open,” said UI receivers coach Bobby Kennedy. “He has more confidence, because he has been through the battles. I see tremendous growth in him, because he’s not trying to figure things out. His mind is not locking and he is playing more natural in his position.”
The vibe between Rudock and VandeBerg is not rare within the Hawkeye program. It was the family atmosphere that sold VandeBerg on becoming a Hawkeye in the first place.
“Being able to accept everybody and the mentality that if you work hard and show you can play you will play,” VandeBerg said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a scholarship guy or walk-on guy, as long as you prove you can play you will see the field on Saturday.”
The Hawkeyes conclude drills with the annual Coke Zero Spring Game on Saturday at 2 p.m. (CT). Gates to Kinnick Stadium open at 1 p.m.; an autograph session will be held from 1:15 to 1:35.