AMES — There is a difference between being one of the guys and being “the guy.” Leading up to the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 vs. Tulsa, Iowa State’s redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Richardson has been asked to be “the guy.”
How’s he doing with that?
Richardson’s performance during Iowa State’s bowl practices so far hasn’t been flashy. As Paul Rhoads astutely put it on Sunday night, “It’s not like with one start and a lot of playing time in the other and these extra reps he has bloomed into the next Dan Marino.”
Well said. The truth is that while Richardson still has plenty of work to do, he’s been steady while working with the ones.
“He’s doing a nice job but he also did a nice job before,” said Rhoads. “He just didn’t do some of the little things that we needed to hand it over to him.”
Which is why 15 bowl practices are so important, especially for a young signal caller – to work on those little things. Iowa State’s offensive coordinator and quarterback’s coach Courtney Messingham has used extra time in his schedule to more closely examine Richardson’s game film from a win over Kansas and the loss to West Virginia. He’s preached consistency over the last week while working on fundamentals with No. 12.
“One thing is just continually throwing strikes,” said Messingham. “When you look at that first game, he was on fire. When you look at the second game, he did not throw it quite as well. Now the conditions I think had something to do with it but also some things fundamentally with them trying to get after him a little bit that he needed to get back and keep working on. That’s really what we’ve done.”
Richardson completed 36-of-58 pass attempts for 412 yards and seven touchdowns (to zerointerceptions) in Iowa State’s last two games of the regular season. As Messingham noted, weather was certainly a factor in round two for Richardson. But even so, the difference in his throwing accuracy was staggering between the two performances. Richardson completed 23-of-27 darts against KU and only 13-of-31 vs. a statistically poor West Virginia secondary.
One area of improvement that the staff has seen in Richardson over the last couple of weeks is in pocket presence.
“The thing that has changed now that he’s had real live reps is his ability to understand I need to go run or I need to throw it away and not take a sack,” said Messingham. “Before he had gotten those live reps, he still had tendencies to in a two-minute situation, take a sack. That’s having been in the fire a little bit that gets you used to ‘oh heck – my clock has run out and I need to go run.’”
Richardson ran for 119 yards in season-ending loss to West Virginia.
Another sign of maturity is becoming a more vocal leader, something Rhoads has seen from Richardson as of late.
“I think especially when you get more snaps with those ones and that personnel group that you’ve got to be more vocal,” said Rhoads. “You’ve got to talk more with the group and yeah, I would say he has shown more of that over the seven practices.”