WILLIAMS: Watch Joel Lanning (and five others) in the spring game


AMES — If you attend Saturday’s Cyclone Gridiron Club Spring Game (1 p.m. at Jack Trice Stadium) hoping to learn more about Iowa State’s new junior college offensive and defensive linemen, prepare yourself to be disappointed.

By design, the big dudes will simply be going through the motions. So will the play-callers. For the linebackers and secondary, the hitting display you’ll see will be less than impressive.

If the spring game was an ice cream flavor, this scrimmage would be vanilla. 

Nobody wants to give anything away, which I totally understand. 

This annual football ritual isn’t exactly what I’d refer to as intense but to the diehard fan, it can still be interesting. That, of course, is if you know who and what to watch for.

This year, I’ll have my eyes focused on “third-string” quarterback Joel Lanning.

I know. There is no quarterback controversy in Ames these days and I’m not trying to create one with this column. Senior Sam Richardson set a school record with 254 completions as a junior last season and has the job locked up. The talk around campus is that Iowa State is hopeful that Richardson can be a top-three signal caller in the Big 12 next season. That’s great, and I hope that he is.

But what if he isn’t?

There’s Grant Rohach, who has proven that he can win Big 12 football games on bad teams, but we’ve still seen quite a bit of him over the last two years.

We’ve yet to see anything from Joel Lanning, a guy who intrigues the heck out of me. He is the Cyclone I can’t wait to get another look at in the 2015 spring game. While the lines will take it easy and the running game is difficult to monitor because of it, a quarterback’s arm strength and accuracy cannot be hidden.

I recently pressed Paul Rhoads on Lanning’s progress and expectations for 2015.

“I don’t know what that vision exactly should be, but he is,” Rhoads said. “And the only reason I hesitate is when we went with one and two a year ago, Joel’s reps naturally got cut back because of it, so Joel just hasn’t had the numbers that the other guys have, but Joel throws a pretty ball and he throws a catchable ball and he’s a strong runner. That running and his size showed up today when he kept it and headed downfield. So, yeah, I guess the answer to that would be yes, because I don’t see him being behind.”

Here’s my deal…

I’m still not convinced that Iowa State’s offensive line will be better next year. Remember the times when Tom Farniok has been out of the lineup the last two years? I certainly do, although I’d like to forget about them. 

Hypothetically, let’s say that the line isn’t much better. Let’s say that for some reason, Richardson either gets hurt or at some point a change is needed.

Since the day he stepped foot on campus, insiders have raved about the physical tools that Lanning brings to the table. 

Is there any chance at all that one way or another, the Ankeny product will take snaps next season?

“I think there’s a possibility of that based on what we do with certain aspects of the offense,”Rhoads said. “I think all three of these guys are capable of carrying it. Certainly Sam’s the fastest and the most elusive, but Joel brings a little punch to him when he carries the ball, so there’s a definitely possibility. It’s not like the offense becomes limited because he can certainly do everything that we ask." 

There is no quarterback competition. This is Sam Richardson’s team. But if you want to be entertained on Saturday, watch No. 7. He very well might be the future of Iowa State football. 

Five other Cyclones to watch

Mike Warren, RS Fr. RB –On a podcast earlier this week, former Cyclone Jeff Woody made the bold prediction that Warren will eventually go down as one of the all-time great running backs at Iowa State.

Tyler Brown, So. RB – He played sparingly as a freshman but managed to average 4.5 yards per carry while doing so. Brown is the odds-on favorite to get the start at tailback for the Cyclones in the 2015 season opener vs. Northern Iowa on Sept. 5. 

Sam Richardson, Sr. QB – For the same reasons listed above for Lanning. He’s clearly the guy at his position and I’d like to see him have a huge day for the sake of fan perception heading into the summer months. 

Jordan Harris, Jr. LB – Word from inside the program is that after a redshirt year, this middle linebacker is a totally different player than he was 365 days ago. That’s great news, but I’d like to see him in action before buying in. 

Brian Peavy, Fr. CB – Rhoads loves this guy. He’s a 5-foot-9, 184-pound rookie corner who has apparently really opened some eyes this spring and is one of the reasons why fifth-year senior Ken Lynn switched positions to wide receiver.