Brock Purdy at Iowa State’s Open Practice on Friday. Photo by Connor Ferguson
One year ago at this time, Brock Purdy was still the new kid on the block deep on the depth chart behind incumbent starter Kyle Kempt and returning backup Zeb Noland. The gunslinger from Arizona arrived on campus in Ames only a few months before the start of Iowa State’s 2018 fall camp.
Regardless, Purdy showed flashes of the talent that would allow him to become the program’s primary quarterback five games into the regular season then finish his freshman campaign with a 7-2 record and a berth in the Alamo Bowl.
Fast forward to fall camp 2019, there is no quarterback controversy or lingering questions as to whether or not the incumbent starter is the right man for the job. This is Purdy’s football team.
“He’s more comfortable,” Iowa State quarterbacks coach Joel Gordon said on Monday. “Seeing things faster and has a much better grasp than he did a year ago at this time. He’s really motivated to be a good player. It’s fun to be around that kind of guys.”
The Gilbert, Ariz. native was one of college football’s breakout stars in 2018 while earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors from the league’s coaches. While some players might get a big head or become complacent, Purdy has used his early success as a motivator for continued improvement.
The first freshman to start a game under center for the Cyclones since 1995 tallied more than 2,000 yards passing and set a single-season school record for passing yardage, but he is still looking for ways to push his game upwards.
“I feel like it has slowed down a lot. Obviously, Coach (Tom) Manning has come in and preached on accelerated vision,” Purdy said. “It’s helped out a lot, especially when we’re getting all these reps against one of the best defenses in the conference every single day. I go out the next day and I feel like I know what they’re going to do here and that kind of thing. The game has slowed down and at the same time I’m just trying to get better with Coach Manning’s play calls.”
One of the few knocks on Purdy’s play as a freshman was his willingness to improvise too early or use his legs when he could have kept his eyes down field. That has become one of the biggest emphasis during the Cyclones’ fall camp as he looks to show his abilities as a true pocket passer.
Obviously, we will still see Purdy take off and run from time to time and don’t worry, Gordon said the trademark pump fake isn’t going anywhere, but the young quarterback and the staff are hoping his improved comfortability in the pocket can take Iowa State’s offense to new heights in 2019.
“He’s working hard at it,” Gordon said. “. He wants to be a guy that can sit in there and make the throws down the field and able to play that position the right way instead of running for no reason. He’s grown up so far in this camp. We’re expecting him to keep improving.”
Other QB Notes
*** Gordon said, if the Cyclones played a game today, Re-al Mitchell has solidified himself as the team’s primary backup under center.
*** One of the biggest questions surrounding the Cyclones entering 2019 concerns the replacement of Hakeem Butler. The new Arizona Cardinal was something of a security blanket last season for Purdy, which leads one to wonder who will take on that role this season.
It sounds like it could be multiple players.
“It’s hard to say because right now we’re distributing the ball basically everywhere,” Purdy said. “Everybody’s getting a shot with the ball and to make plays. All three of our tight ends are looking really good, our slot receivers and our outside receivers, honestly, everybody’s getting the ball right now. Compared to last year, I feel like we’re spreading the ball a lot better.”
*** I found this quote from Purdy on his pass-catchers gaining his trust to be the most insightful one he gave during his nearly 10-minute interview on Monday.
“Right now in practice, what I look for is the guys who are the most consistent,” Purdy said. “Not somebody who I think is maybe going to do alright this play or maybe he’s not. The guys who are consistent every single play, I have 100 percent confidence in them. That’s when I go to them. Every day in camp, I’m seeing that more and more with certain guys.”