Competition is a good thing on a football team. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the trenches, backfield or on the outside, but it’s competition that pushes players to get better. It helps keep players from becoming complacent, or too comfortable.
There might not be a position where competition is more important than quarterback.
Quarterbacks can’t be complacent. They can’t be comfortable. They need to be improving every day and, most of the time, they need to be pushed.
That’s why the new Iowa State coaching staff made it a priority to improve the quarterback position. That doesn’t mean returning starter Joel Lanning has lost his job. It means Matt Campbell and his staff are doing what they can to bring better players in behind Lanning to push him to be better.
“I think if you really go back, watch the film, really evaluate it, Joel really brought a lot to the table the last five games last year,” Campbell, said after the Cyclones’ first spring practice. “I think now it’s a matter of him being comfortable and yet continuing to strain to grow, as quarterbacks have to. So I think he’s really taken that personal and really done a great job in terms of leading and growing within our offense.”
It isn’t that there hasn’t been competition among the Iowa State signal callers in the past few season. It’s hard to forget about the Sam Richardson and Grant Rohach rotation in 2014 or Lanning splitting some time with Richardson last season. Both of them are now gone with Richardson graduating and Rohach transferring to Buffalo.
Most of the faces behind Lanning are different and hopefully capable. It’s one of the youngest groups on the offense. Only two other quarterbacks return from last season’s team, redshirt freshman Dominic De Lira and walk-on redshirt sophomore Kyle Starcevich.
“You know, I think Dom (De Lira) is a guy that we’re all excited about. I’m going to be honest with you,” Campbell said. “He’s been a surprise over the last four to five weeks. He had a great winter. Really proud of him and really proud of his attention to detail.”
The rest of the depth chart behind center will be filled out by newcomers. Three-star true freshman Zeb Noland is sure to be a favorite among fans with his big arm and impressive high school resumé.
It isn’t likely that Noland will see the field this season but that doesn’t mean he can’t be there to push Lanning. That same competition is what can push a player like Noland to work harder during a redshirt season.
“Zeb (Noland), we just announced our champions club today. That’s really a six to eight week first quarter. We break the season into four quarters, and that first eight weeks back, winter workouts included. Here’s a young freshman that’s come in here his first eight weeks of college football and he’s in that Champions Club,” Campbell said. “Which meant he had a great winter, meant he got stronger, meant he competed in our winter drills and came out with a winning record. I think Zeb just gets it. He loves football, so I think he’s brought a lot to the table.”
The last quarterback on the roster is one fans might not know much about, preferred walk-on Kyle Kempt. The junior from Massillon, Ohio was a three-star recruit out of high school before signing with Oregon State, and former head coach Mike Riley. Riley is a guy that knows quarterbacks. If he wantedKempt, then you could say this a very solid addition as a walk-on.
Kempt left Oregon State after the 2014 season (also when Riley left for Nebraska) and transferred to Hutchinson Community College. Now, due to some comfortability, Kempt is a Cyclone.
“Went through the recruiting process a little bit when I was at Toledo with Kyle. I just think familiarity is what brought him here, and an opportunity,” Campbell said. “We’ll see how that continues to go over over the course of time. Kyle is a great young man. He really loves the game of football. Again, he’s competitive. I think the common theme that I hope you hear from the quarterback position, I would hope, under our regime is you love the game of football. You’re gym rats, which I think all those guys have that mentality, which I appreciate.”