AMES — Sam Richardson is feeling more relaxed during fall camp this season. He isn’t looking over his shoulder as rumors swirl that he could lose his job as Iowa State’s starting quarterback.
That’s so 2013 and 2014.
The senior from Winter Park, Florida is the Cyclones’ starting quarterback. There’s no questioning that.
“You like having competition regardless of the position, but it’s clear-cut,” said Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads. “They know that and they’re excited about Sam as a leader, and they’re excited about Sam as a player.”
Richardson hasn’t always been the most vocal guy. He didn’t usually have much to say to the media. He wasn’t much of a verbal leader on the field. He just led by example.
That changed this offseason.
He’s taken the role as the team leader. He steps up in front of team meetings. He’s helping the younger quarterbacks learn the offense. He’s doing the duties of a fifth-year senior.
“I think I was a leader last year, but with the guys that we had they did a little more of the talking and I just led by example,” Richardson said. “It’s making myself approachable to those young guys, and whatever it is. I’ve put a high importance on that and trying to establish the leadership that we need for this season.”
It’s a change welcomed by Rhoads. Richardson is doing his part in rebuilding the culture that helped mold the early years of the Rhoads era.
Two years ago as a sophomore, he just wasn’t there yet.
“Two years ago he was quiet. Two years ago he wouldn’t have recognized that he needed to be verbal,” Rhoads said. “He’s changed who he is as the starting quarterback to be the leader of the football team.”
It is clear that Richardson feels more confident in his position than he did before the start of last season. Throwing for 2,669 yards and 18 touchdowns during his junior campaign could have something to do with that.
While the younger quarterbacks have been working to build that confidence, Richardson is already taking it onto the field and allowing it to pay dividends for Mark Mangino’s offense.
“I think I’ve been pretty confident since last year so I don’t think that’s something I really need to work on,” Richardson said.
Richardson will be looked upon to do a lot of things on the field for this Iowa State team. Some games he might have to sling the ball around 50 times, others he could be forced to tuck it and run more.
He was the team’s second leading rusher last season with 421 yards and three touchdowns. This season he plans to hang in the pocket and allow the scheme to do the work for him.
“I was standing behind him yesterday (Monday) and there was a scenario where there were rushers everywhere," Rhoads said. "He side-stepped, he stepped up, he side-stepped the other direction and he looked for an opportunity to throw. When Mark (Mangino) arrived two years ago, he would have looked at that rusher and would have no idea what was going on down field. Yesterday he had no idea what was going on around him other than there were bees buzzing around his head and he had to slide and do what Coach Sturdy coached him to do. We’re always throw first, always throw first. When that’s worn out, given the down and distance, then we’re going to take off and gain as much as we can.”
Richardson staying in the pocket more doesn’t mean the quarterback run game will disappear completely in 2015, but quarterbacks coach Todd Sturdy doesn’t want to let out any more details than that.
“You never know what we’ll do with those legs,” Sturdy said. “I think a big part of his game is extending plays with his feet and he has the ability to hurt a defense and keep the offense on the field, move the chains. Sam will do that with his feet.”