Gene J. Puskar
November 23, 2015

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Jake Rudock was scanning the country earlier this year, looking for a place to play while taking steps toward his goal of being a pediatric heart specialist.

At Michigan, he got both.

Rudock, a graduate transfer from Iowa, became a starting quarterback for the 12th-ranked Wolverines (9-2, 6-1 Big Ten) this season and is working on a master's degree in kinesiology.

He will likely have to play well for Michigan to beat No. 8 Ohio State (10-1, 6-1) for the first time since 2011 and just the second time in 12 years on Saturday at the Big House.

If Rudock makes more plays than mistakes, he will be following a recent trend.

After a rocky start in which Rudock was among the nation's leaders in turnovers, he has validated Jim Harbaugh's faith in him by flourishing during the team's four-game winning streak despite taking some hard hits.

''Tough as a $2 steak doesn't do it real justice,'' Harbaugh said Monday. ''He has been a godsend for our football team.''

Rudock beat out Shane Morris, who had played in 10 games the previous two years, to be the No. 1 QB during Harbaugh's debut season as the leader of the program he starred for at the same position.

Through the first two games, Rudock had six turnovers and only one player had more at the highest level of college football.

Harbaugh steadfastly stuck by him, though, saying the competition wasn't even close to have a conversation about making a change.

''When you hear your coach standing up for you like that, it gives you so much confidence,'' Rudock said in an interview with The Associated Press while sipping on a smoothie and holding a thick playbook. ''I could just focus on improving and not looking over my shoulder.''

Rudock has been at his best when Michigan needed him most, coming off a heartbreaking loss to Michigan State on a botched punt. He has thrown 11 touchdown passes and just three interceptions over the last four games while completing 69 percent of his passes and averaging 293 yards passing.

Harbaugh, a star signal caller with the Wolverines in the mid-1980s and a solid starter in the NFL, is regarded as a QB guru. He helped groom Andrew Luck for the league while he coached him at Stanford and played a key part in the success Colin Kaepernick had in San Francisco.

Now, he is turning a relatively pedestrian QB into a standout.

One of the reasons Rudock wanted to play at Michigan was because his high school coach heard Harbaugh had his eye on him while he was leading the 49ers.

''When coach Harbaugh was at San Francisco, Jake was on the board (of NFL prospects) because of his intelligence,'' said George Smith, who coached Rudock at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and assisted him during his search for a school to transfer to this year. ''Now, I've got three NFL scouts talking to me about how well he manages a game. The thing people don't seem to talk about is how tough he is. I talked to him the day after he took a brutal hit in Minnesota and he said it felt like he got hit by a truck.''

Rudock was knocked out against the Golden Gophers with what Harbaugh called a torso injury, then bounced back to play in the next week's win against Rutgers. The following game, he set a school record with six touchdown passes and threw for a career-high 440 yards against Indiana.

Along the way, Harbaugh publicly said Rudock has developed into an NFL-caliber quarterback.

''I was surprised that he would come out and say something like that,'' Rudock said. ''I was like, `Wow. All the work is paying off.' It was a tough transition coming here as the new guy who is supposed to lead, but it has definitely worked out.''

The 22-year-old Rudock is an elder statesman among his teammates, and he's referred to as ''dad,'' by his fellow quarterbacks.

''The QBs are kind of like `Mean Girls,''' Michigan center Graham Glasgow said. ''They talk about girls and stuff, they gossip. He doesn't want to be bothered by that. He's all business, all time.''

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AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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