- Brandon Chatmon, ESPN Staff Writer
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The quarterback position looks shockingly familiar at Iowa State.
At this time last year, Sam Richardson was a redshirt freshman quarterback coming off a strong finish to the season and looked poised to lead the Cyclones during the upcoming season and beyond.
Now, one year later, the exact same could be said of ISU quarterback Grant Rohach.
Rohach replaced Richardson as the Cyclones starter for the final four games of 2013, leading ISU to a 2-2 finish after a 1-7 start with Richardson under center. Rohach was outstanding in the Cyclones back-to-back wins to end the season, going 40-of-59 for 631 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in wins over Kansas and West Virginia. His 85.4 adjusted QBR was ninth among FBS quarterbacks who started two games during the final two weeks of November and ahead of Florida State’s Jameis Winston, Clemson’s Tahj Boyd among others.
After getting his feet wet in games against Baylor, Oklahoma State and Kansas State, Rohach started against TCU, Oklahoma, Kansas and West Virginia. Here’s a closer look, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, at how the redshirt freshman performed during his first season under center in Ames, Iowa and the potential impact on ISU’s offense under new offensive coordinator Mark Mangino.
Rohach was 79-of-134 for 870 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions when teams didn’t blitz during his freshman season. Most importantly, he was 52-of-84 for 676 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions in his four starts, a sign he was improving as a season progressed. Impact on 2014: Part of the reason Richardson lost his job was a lack of development as a sophomore, although injuries played a role in his inconsistent play. For Rohach, he improved as the season went on, becoming more comfortable in the final weeks. As long as he doesn’t regress, Mangino will have a quality quarterback to run his offense.
Against the blitz, Rohach was 31-of-57 for 320 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. In games he started, he was 27-of-47 for 289 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Impact on 2014: This will be one of the biggest areas of improvement for Rohach in the offseason. As Big 12 defensive coordinators get a better feel for his strengths, they will attack him in the pocket. That means he’ll need to become comfortable against the blitz because being able to operate comfortably and efficiently in the chaos of the pocket is often the difference between success and failure for quarterbacks.
Not surprisingly, Rohach was much better on play-action passes than regular passing plays. He was 45-of-75 for 625 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions on play-action plays. On plays without play-action, he was 65-of-116 for 595 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. Impact on 2014: The Cyclones need to run the ball better. But we knew that already. Regardless, this means Rohach can take advantage and keep teams honest with his passing skills if the Cyclones do get their running game going. And his ability to make teams pay with his arm could help Mangino’s run attack test defenses.
Each of Rohach’s seven interceptions came when opponents rushed four or five defenders. In other words, defenses didn’t have to sell out and leave their secondary at risk to force Rohach into a mistake. Impact on 2014: With natural development, this shouldn’t be a major issue as he gets more comfortable with what he’s seeing from defenses as a sophomore. But it does mean that teams won’t be taken out of their element to try to come up with ways to slow Rohach. Until he proves teams must get pressure to stop him, defenses won’t risk putting their secondary in peril against the Cyclones.