It is his job to lose.
Sophomore quarterback Sam Richardson found himself at the top of Iowa State’s depth chart to open up the spring earlier this week. It marks the first time in three years in which a quarterback controversy isn’t the huge storyline surrounding Iowa State football during the month of March.
That is refreshing.
“I want him to continue on with the accuracy and the quarterback efficiency that he showed in those three games,” said head coach Paul Rhoads of Richardson. “I saw more demonstrative leadership personality out of him today than in the past. I think that is important for him. I don’t think that you can be quiet and be the leading quarterback of a football team. I think he was different in that regard.”
Richardson completed 46-of-79 passes for 541 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception in three games during his redshirt freshman season.
By all means, Richardson is a leader. He ran for 233 yards in three games last year and is a more elusive on his feet than anyone will ever give him credit for. The best news is that the sophomore is confident in the playmakers that Iowa State has put around him heading into 2013. Don’t look past how important that is.
Take two tight ends, Ernst Brun and JUCO transfer E.J. Bibbs for instance. Brun caught a team-high (tied with Josh Lenz) six touchdowns last season. Bibbs recently chose Iowa State over Oklahoma. Both are legitimate receiving threats that should make life easier on a young signal caller.
“It’s pretty awesome having a big body out there that can move around and you know is going to get open with sure hands,” said Richardson. “Those are two weapons who will be pretty big in the Big 12 this year.”
In addition to the twin tight ends, Iowa State will field a new-look receiving core in 2013. Jarvis West and Albert Gary are the only upperclassmen on Iowa State’s roster at wide receiver. The rest are youngsters.
“They are guys that played under Josh Lenz and under Chris Young, some of the better receivers that we have had come through this program,” said Richardson. “You can still see them out there running around and making plays.”
How good these guys will actually be is still a major question. After all, it is only March. But Iowa State finished 2012 ranked 85th nationally in scoring offense. It’s worth nothing that the 85th mark is the BEST of the four years that Rhoads has been in Ames.
Maybe some new blood isn’t a bad thing.
Then there are the Aaron Wimberly’s and DeVondrick Nealy’s of the world, guys who by all counts will be moved all over the field next season.
“Defenses will have to know where they are. The big plays are coming. That’s what I really feel,” said Richardson. “It makes for a dynamic offense to be honest with you. We are looking to produce at a high level.”
All of this talk is fine and dandy. We all know that it means nothing until the Cyclones hit the field to take on Northern Iowa in August. But the confidence that Iowa State’s quarterback has is certainly a positive.
*** After practice No. 1, Rhoads said that the arms of Richardson and his backup, freshman Grant Rohach appeared to be stronger than they were last winter.
“That comes from weeks of training and your velocity comes from your lower body. It doesn’t come from your actual, physical arm strength. It comes from your lower body and they have done a nice job of training. Accuracy is very important in this race and that’s one thing for sure at the top of the list that I want to see Grant and Sam accomplish.”
*** I asked Richardson what was more important to him this spring and summer now that he is listed as the team’s starting quarterback – the physical prep or mental aspect of the game?
“A little bit of both,” said Richardson. “With the new offense I will definitely have to continue to get comfortable with that but physically, we have to start making plays. Maybe it is a little bit more mental just knowing where those plays are going to be at and being able to execute them as well.”