Iowa State high on QB Sam Richardson

Nearly all the so-called surprise teams in the Big 12 in recent

years were led by big-time quarterbacks who put their programs over

the top.

Can Iowa State sophomore Sam Richardson be the next unknown to

emerge as a star?

The Cyclones believe so – even though he’s only thrown 79 career

passes.

Iowa State thinks they’ve finally found a dual-threat playmaker

in Richardson, a sophomore who will get his third career start on

Saturday against Northern Iowa.

Of course, no one is ready to declare Richardson a

program-changing talent along the lines of Robert Griffin III or

Kansas State’s Collin Klein just yet. But the Cyclones can’t stop

raving about their promising quarterback.

”The best quality that Sam is that he’s always composed, he

knows what’s going on and he’s aware,” Iowa State senior running

back Jeff Woody said. ”He’s got a good arm, and (the) dude can

run. But the best thing Sam has got is between his ears, and that’s

something that instills confidence in the team because we know

exactly what’s going on.”

Richardson’s resume is limited to a three-game stretch that was

both brilliant and inconclusive.

But that brief look at the end of 2012 was enough to convince

coach Paul Rhoads and his staff that Richardson could be something

special.

Richardson was buried on the depth chart nearly all season as

the third-stringer. He only got a shot in mid-November because the

coaching staff had become completely exasperated with co-starters

Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz.

Richardson was put in during the third series against Kansas

with bowl eligibility on the line. Richardson was a revelation,

throwing for 250 yards and four touchdowns on 23 of 27 passing –

albeit against one of the nation’s worst defenses – in a 51-23

win.

Richardson wasn’t nearly so spectacular in losses to West

Virginia and Tulsa to close out the season. But Iowa State’s loss

to the Mountaineers came on a day when extremely gusty wind made

any type of pass a risk, and Richardson succumbed to the flu after

completing six of his first seven passes in a 31-17 Liberty Bowl

loss to the Golden Hurricane.

Richardson threw for eight TDs against just one pick and also

ran for 233 yards, averaging a healthy 5.7 yards per carry.

`He was too scared to worry about anything other than the snap

count. He’s come a long ways, I’ll just say it that way. And the

biggest area of improvement, I think, is his leadership and his

grasp and his understanding of what we’re doing,” Rhoads said.

Richardson’s hold on the starting job was further solidified

when Barnett transferred to Illinois State. He’s now had a spring

and fall camp working with the rest of the starters after watching

Jantz and Barnett split those opportunities for two years.

Though Richardson is a rather soft-spoken underclassman, he said

he’s embraced the leadership role that every quarterback has to

take.

”I’ve always been taught growing up to lead by example at

first. And then, when you’re leading, people kind of take that

along with your words,” Richardson said. ”Being more vocal has

just come naturally.”

Rhoads, now in his fifth season, said earlier this month that

the Cyclones feel as good about the quarterback position as they

ever have heading into the season.

That’s all because of Richardson, who has won over his teammates

and coaches with his calm demeanor and ability to make plays.

”He’s relaxed, he’s poised out there, and a quarterback needs

to be that type of guy. If you’re going to throw accurate passes,

if you’re going to throw things on time, you’re going to do it in

that state. You’re not going to do that tense,” Rhoads said.

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