AMES, IOWA — As Joel Lanning roamed the sideline in Lawrence, Kan., last November, warming the cannon many had spoken in awe about, there was wonderment about just what this redshirt freshman might show.
In the end, Lanning remained on the sideline, never to be used.
On the verge of his redshirt sophomore season, smack dab in the middle of a quarterback battle for the No. 2 spot during this fall camp, Lanning has had time to think. By all accounts he has certainly learned a lot since that chilly November day and looking back, it takes him a few seconds to determine if he would have been ready had his number been called.
“That’s kind of iffy,” the 6-foot-2 Lanning said. “If I was in there I just would have went in there and done it. I probably would have messed up a few things.”
At 232 pounds, Lanning is built more like a linebacker than a quarterback. He’s two inches taller and just one pound lighter — depending on the day — than Iowa State’s starting middle linebacker, Jordan Harris. So it makes sense why some have clamored during Lanning’s early years in Ames about the thought of seeing him on defense.
There is a strong belief however: Lanning is not a linebacker.
Iowa State coaches have seen too many of his rocket throws in practice and have witnessed countless more passes downfield to know where he belongs. What Paul Rhoads and Co. have waited for is for the mental side of the game to catch up with the obvious physical side.
“Joel’s biggest advancement is above his shoulders,” Rhoads said. “He’s very skilled as a passer. I think if you polled the coaches or even the players, they might tell you Joel throws the best ball. But you have to have that complete package and I think that’s where he’s advanced the most.”
“He’s come a long way,” quarterbacks coach Todd Sturdy adds. “I’m really pleased with where Joel is at right now. He’s had an outstanding camp. A lot of things have fallen into place for him, the light bulb has come on in a lot of situations, which is really fun to see.”
Lanning, who played one game last season on special teams, could insert himself into Iowa State’s offense in 2015 even with quarterback Sam Richardson well cemented into the starting spot. The Cyclones have talked about Lanning being used in the run game, although Lanning said they haven’t worked on specific packages during fall camp.
As a senior at Ankeny in 2012, Lanning tallied 3,384 yards (2,315 passing and 1,082 rushing) and 39 touchdowns as a dual-threat. As his progression continues now into his sophomore season, coaches are excited.
Lanning, meanwhile, is more prepared than ever.
“I feel like I’m ready to go now,” Lanning said with that newfound confidence. “If my number was called, I’d be ready to go.”