WEST DES MOINES - Iowa piled its team onto five busses and trekked halfway across the state Sunday, giving its fans in the Des Moines area a sneak peek at the 2013 Hawkeyes.
The crowd at West Des Moines Valley High saw the same thing they'll likely see at the final spring practice in Iowa City in two weeks.
The Hawkeyes have three quarterbacks competing for the vacant starting job, but Jake Rudock, Cody Sokol and C.J. Beathard have yet to separate themselves.
Iowa quarterback Jake Rudock throws a pass during the Hawkeyes’ football practice at Valley Stadium on Sunday in West Des Moines.
"It's kind of hit or miss right now, and that's kind of where the whole offense is at this point. We're rotating them in, which is probably tough for them to get a little bit of rhythm going," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
"All three of them are doing good things, and all three of them still have things to work on. I think it's early to predict, and we're not going to. We'll let the guys continue to compete."
The Hawkeyes drew roughly 8,000 for an open practice nearly two hours from Iowa City, a move Ferentz said was to reward their fans from the western part of Iowa while giving the players a break from their spring routine.
Rudock, Sokol and Beathard each ran plays with the starting offense and the backups, and each had their share of strong throws and bad ones.
But if anyone has an edge so far, it's Rudock.
Rudock, who will be a redshirt sophomore next season, spent 2012 listed as the backup to James Vandenberg.
Even though Vandenberg wound up taking every snap for the 4-8 Hawkeyes, the time spent behind Vandenberg appears to have given Rudock a boost as spring ball winds down.
Rudock showed a strong and accurate arm during drills in windy conditions Sunday.
"Jake still has the best handle on things, for obvious reasons. But we'll just probably let it go throughout the whole spring," Ferentz said. "In fairness to all three of them, we just want to watch them all compete."
Sokol, one of just a few junior college players brought in by Iowa during the Ferentz era, also spent time working with the reserves in practice last fall.
Sokol appears to have the most mobility of the three quarterbacks vying for the No. 1 spot, though Iowa's offense has traditionally valued pocket passers.
Still, Sokol believes that all the changes for an offense with new running backs and receivers coaches has put him on equal footing.
"I would say (Rudock) has an advantage, but it's all new. It's a new offense," Sokol said. "Everyone is coming in fresh."
Beathard, a 6-foot-2 freshman from Franklin, Tenn., is perhaps best known as the grandson of longtime NFL general manager Bobby Beathard. He certainly didn't look out of place on Sunday, tossing more than a few nice passes when he got his chances.
Benching Beathard to give him more time to grow physically and learn the offense would seem to be the easiest way for the Hawkeyes to go.
But none of the three quarterbacks trying to replace Vandenberg has thrown a pass in college, and Ferentz insists that each of them will have an equal shot at the starting job.
After finishing 4-8 in 2012, the Hawkeyes can't afford to keep their most talented players on the bench - no matter how young they are.
"Right now, nobody knows who is winning and who is not," wide receiver Jacob Hillyer. "We're going to wait and see I guess."