AMES — First came the hard-earned added bulk gleaned from grueling winter workouts.
Next, increased quickness.
That amped-up combination of power and speed amounts to progress for Iowa State’s top three quarterbacks — Grant Rohach, Sam Richardson and Joel Lanning.
But it’s not nearly enough to hasten Cyclones Coach Paul Rhoads’ decision on who will ultimately be named the starter.
“(August) 16th at the latest and that’s not necessarily coming off the field that day,” Rhoads said Monday of his timetable to whittle the competition from three to one. “But it could be the 10th, it could be the 14th. We could get there sooner. It won’t be later.”
The lack of certainty doesn’t bother Rohach, who started the final four games of 2013 after an array of injuries finally sidelined Richardson.
“It’s college football,” said Rohach, the only quarterback who spoke to the media after Monday’s first and only open fall practice. “You’re always competing. Nothing’s ever given to you. That’s exactly what Rhoads has told all of us: ‘You’re never going to get handed anything in your lives and that’s not what we’re going to do here.’ So no surprise there’s a quarterback battle. I think we all like it better that way. We all have a fair shot at it. The best man will play.”
Maybe the fastest, too.
ISU’s first-year offensive coordinator Mark Mangino used a caffeinated analogy to describe the progress he’s seen from all his quarterbacks in terms of speedy delivery.
“I would say, overall, they’re getting rid of the ball quicker; they’re getting their reads quicker,” said Mangino, whose resume includes National Coach and National Assistant Coach of the Year honors. “In the spring I could have had a cup of coffee from the time the ball was snapped to the time the ball was launched. Now I can only have a sip of coffee rather than the whole cup. So there’s been some progress there. I think they understand the looks they’re getting from the defensive side. I think a lot of that comes from individual film study that they dedicated themselves to this summer, so there’s improvement there. There is improvement there, but we’ve got a long way to go. They know it. We all know it. But we’ll get it done.”
Rhoads jokingly requested his “turntable” when asked what he’ll be looking for to create that separation required to choose one guy to man the top spot behind center.
Once again, the often-noted list includes: Leadership. Intelligence. Accuracy.
“They will separate themselves by being better at those three things than the other people,” Rhoads added.
So it’s stay-tuned mode.
“I don’t know if it’s a couple of weeks, but it will be a while yet,” Mangino said of this season’s first round (and maybe last?) of quarterback decisions. “We’re not ready for that.”
OFT INJURED OFFENSIVE LINE HIT AGAIN:Ben Loth, who’s listed as the No. 2 center on the fall two-deeps, hurt is left knee during Monday’s practice. How severe is the injury? Stay tuned on that, too. “Oftentimes with an injury like that you get tight and tense on the field and you can’t get a thorough exam,” said Rhoads, whose line was beset by injuries last season. “So we’ll get pictures of it and (meet with) and orthopedic surgeon.”
FIREWORKS?: Rhoads always highlights the need for “explosive plays.” There have been far too few of them. Expect that to change, he said — with a quarterback-based caveat. “It starts with a quarterback being able to get that accomplished — get a guy the ball,” Rhoads said. “An explosive play doesn’t have to be a ball that travels 50 yards through the air. It can be a ball that’s three yards behind the line of scrimmage and a center gets out and makes an outstanding play and springs a guy or a guy makes a guy miss. And I think we have more guys capable of making guys miss in the backfield, at wide receiver and at the tight end position in E.J. (Bibbs).”
HE SPEAKS: On National Signing Day, Rhoads thundered that four-star recruit Allen Lazard would be spared the chore of speaking with the media during his freshman season. That order was rescinded Monday, as the highly-touted wide receiver from Urbandale was made available to reporters. What changed? Maybe nothing. “How do you know I wasn’t going to do that all along and just said the things on signing day to ruffle feathers or be funny?” Rhoads quipped. “But a piece of this is, we know there’s going to be a lot of focus on Allen as there should be (when you’re) that highly-recruited and that talented of a young man out of out own state.”
Lazard — who ran with the No. 3s — said his focus right now is the playbook and fundamentals. After that? “Just getting open and stuff,” he said.
LEADING MEN: Rhoads named his 2014 captains Monday. They are tight end E.J. Bibbs, center Tom Farniok and defensive end Cory Morrissey.