Editor’s note: First in a series breaking down the ISU football team position by position.
By Dylan Montz, correspondent
AMES — After a season that produced a 3-9 overall record, a nagging ankle injury and much frustration, Sam Richardson knew something had to change.
And after not playing in the final two games of last season for Iowa State — both wins — the junior quarterback took it upon himself to jump start that change within himself.
Richardson spent a lot of his time in the off-season working on his strength and adding weight to his frame in hopes of making him a more durable quarterback. He is listed as 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds, which he credits to his workout routine and his diet.
“If I went home for a weekend and didn’t eat right or anything, I’d end up losing weight and now it’s kind of like my metabolism is slowing down a little bit. So I’m definitely able to put on more weight,” Richardson said. “At the same time, it’s knowing that I need to put on weight so I was putting it on pretty quick and then trimming down when I needed to and staying fit.”
The off-season strength workouts were not only designed to make him more of a durable quarterback in the running game, but to make him a more effective passer as well. Last season, Richardson threw for 1,397 yards for 11 touchdowns while completing 55 percent of his passes. But he struggled all season with an ankle injury suffered against Northern Iowa.
Now he’s 100 percent healthy, and ISU coaches have seen his skills in the pocket improve, particularly the velocity with which he delivers the football.
“He’s throwing more accurate balls right now and the ball’s out quicker than it ever has been with him,” said Coach Paul Rhoads.
Richardson, who played behind a battered offensive line last season, had a tendency to be a run-first quarterback. He was third in rushing for the Cyclones with 356 yards and two touchdowns.
Coaches have seen Richardson become more of a presence in the pocket, which has come from his maturity as a player, his level of health and his understanding of the offense.
“It took him a while to understand the culture of our offense and the way we do business,” said offensive coordinator Mark Mangino. “Sam has shown a much greater sense of urgency about his play. When we first got here, he was kind of off in his drops, he took his time to read things and took his time throwing the ball. Now he gets in his drops, he gets the read and gets rid of the ball. That is a really big leap for Sam.”
Sophomore Grant Rohach, who led Iowa State to its two wins to end last season, was pegged for first-team reps in the spring and to begin fall camp. Rhoads said that was simply because Richardson had further to go in improvement. Rhoads said Richardson has accomplished a lot in progressing as a quarterback, and Richardson can see that too.
“With all those guys outside, you’ve got to get those guys the ball so it’s something that I definitely focused on this off-season with coaches (Todd) Sturdy and Mangino, and I think I’ve definitely gotten better,” Richardson said.
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