AMES - It’s still a three-man battle.
That was the word from Iowa State football coach Paul Rhoads Tuesday with regard to his team’s crowded-at-the-top quarterback position.
“Have not cut it down yet,” Rhoads said during the Big 12 spring teleconference. “Both (offensive coordinator Mark Mangino and defensive coordinator Wally Burnham) are in the office this week going through film and projecting summer study stuff and that’s part of the work that Mark’s still hammering out.”
So right now it’s not a question of whether Grant Rohach, Sam Richardson or Joel Lanning has a leg up for the top quarterback spot as summer workouts fade into fall camp.
Everything hinges on constant improvement in all the major categories: accuracy, decision making, zip on the ball.
And apparently neither of the three created enough of a gap in the spring to allow on-paper or film-based separation to take place. “I think we still have work to do,” Rhoads said. “And I think that was going to be the case with two things being factual: One, a new quarterback coach (Toddy Sturdy, who coached wide receivers last season), and two, and most importantly, a new offense to learn.”
Mangino said during spring practice he hoped to narrow the quarterback competition to two by the end of camp, but he would not rush to judgment.
Rohach, who completed 57.6 percent of his passes last season for eight touchdowns and seven interceptions, led ISU to its season-closing conference wins over Kansas and West Virginia.
Richardson, who entered 2013 as the starter but endured numerous injuries that hindered his progress, completed 55.3 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Lanning, a redshirt freshman, has impressed coaches with his arm strength and all-around performance.
“I would anticipate we’ll probably have (a No. 1 quarterback) named by the middle of August,” Rhoads said. “First scrimmage, potentially. Second scrimmage, for sure.”
Rhoads said Mangino and his staff have indicated the Cyclones have been able to implement elements of his system “ahead of schedule,” but there’s still plenty to learn in terms of both broader and finer points.
“We’ve got to continue to get better and better at it every time we step on the field,” Rhoads said.
The same holds true for the rest of the team — and especially for a decimated interior defensive line.
Projected No. 1 nose guard Devlyn Cousin is the only player currently listed at tackle that’s played major college snaps.
Rhoads said one incoming JUCO player — and maybe more — could move inside to compete for prime playing time.
“Terry Ayeni is already slotted to be an inside guy for us and we’re going to have to look at incoming junior college guys as well as our current roster to figure out who else,” Rhoads said.
Regardless, the coach added, he’s been pleased with the green group’s attitude — and that’s another thing he’s discerned as a team-wide quality through 15 practices.
“They’re eager,” Rhoads said. “They’re intent.”
DEVRON MOORE UPDATE: Junior college transfer safety Devron Moore still may return to the team after battling homesickness, but if he does, he will not be under scholarship, Rhoads said. “We’re waiting to hear from him,” Rhoads added.
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