The Cyclones open preseason practice on Monday, Aug. 4. To get you ready for the season, AllCyclones.com will be gauging the depth at every position on the roster. First up: Quarterback.
The Leader: Grant Rohach
Thanks to his strong finish in 2013, Rohach will be afforded first dibs at winning the quarterback job this fall. If he can consistently be the player who threw for 300 and 331 yards and two and four touchdowns against Kansas and West Virginia, respectively, then Mark Mangino just might have somebody who can effectively operate his offense. If Rohach regresses to his mid-year form — 45 percent completion against Kansas State and 47 percent versus TCU — then there's no way he's trusted with the reins of an offense that has the potential to be very good, thanks to luminaries like E.J. Bibbs, Aaron Wimberly and Quenton Bundrage.
The big key for Rohach is cutting down on his turnovers; he has no problem admitting interceptions were his bugaboo as a freshman. The game manager cliché is, well, cliché, and Rohach has the long-term potential to be better than that — he's an able scrambler with a nice, quick release and a good arm. For now, though, Rohach just needs to work on taking care of the football and moving the chains with short, accurate throws. He's got enough talent around him to take care of the rest.
The Wildcard: Sam Richardson
In many ways, Rohach's 2014 outlook is the same one Richardson carried into last year. He had won the starting job at the tail end of his redshirt freshman season, thanks to a blistering performance or two, and the future was his.
Then injury struck Richardson in forms we know — ankle, thumb — and forms that haven't been divulged to the general public, more severe things Paul Rhoads alluded to in the spring. Time has healed those ailments and Richardson has bulked up considerably (as has Rohach), but is it too late? His rushing and scrambling ability makes Richardson perhaps the most talented quarterback on the roster — and yet, something's missing. Maybe it's less-than-stellar arm strength, or maybe his confidence was shattered in '13, at the hands of an incompetent offensive staff. Expectations were lofty for Richardson last fall, the fanbase giddy about the prospects of a multi-year starter at quarterback. Stability, finally. For reasons Richardson could and could not control, he enters his junior season as the backup quarterback. The good news for him, even after a poor spring game, is that the job's most definitely still open.
The Future: Joel Lanning
Whispers around the program last fall were that Lanning could be "the guy" this upcoming season. Lanning's got the best arm on the team and is sure to be a fan favorite as the local kid, but perhaps that talk was premature: As physically impressive as Lanning is, he left a lot to be desired in the spring game and in the preceding scrimmage, per program sources. It's possible Lanning was trying too hard to complete every throw at 110 miles per hour. The result? A lot of balls in the dirt at the feet of his targets. If Mangino can fix that problem and help the game slow down for Lanning, the Cyclones will be giddy.
Iowa State moved Trevor Hodge to safety in summer 7-on-7 drills after signing dual-threat quarterback Darius Lee-Campbell in February. Lee-Campbell was a better fit in Chris Klenakis' pistol than Mangino's spread, but the Cyclones will give him every chance to stay at quarterback. Lee-Campbell's 6-foot-2, 205-pound frame and his quicks would make him a nice option in the defensive backfield, though. The Cyclones have a commitment from 2015 QB Dom DeLira of Lake Travis High in Austin, the same school that produced Mangino's most well-known star, Todd Reesing. They don't figure to take two quarterbacks in this class.