Position battle update: Iowa State QB

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
11:00
AM ET
This week we'll be highlighting the key position battles for every program in the Big 12. We begin this series with Iowa State, which appears to be on the verge of naming a starting quarterback for the opener against North Dakota State.

Here's where the battle stands:

Contenders: junior Sam B. Richardson, sophomore Grant Rohach, redshirt freshman Joel Lanning

Non-contenders: freshman Darius Lee-Campbell

What happened last season: Richardson opened the season as the starter after a promising finish to his freshman year. But the season quickly turned into a nightmare for him, as he suffered an array of nagging injuries, including a sprained ankle that hobbled him for most of the season. Richardson wound up completing only 55.3 percent of his passes and averaged only 3.5 yards per carry, a year after he averaged 5.7. With Richardson ailing, the Cyclones turned to Rohach, who struggled through a six-game losing streak, but played well in Iowa State's final two games. In those two wins against Kansas and West Virginia, Rohach completed 68 percent of his passes for 631 yards and six touchdowns to just two interceptions.

Lanning, who signed with Iowa State over an offer from Nebraska, redshirted.

What they offer: Rohach's finish to the season made him the front-runner in the competition going into the offseason. But Richardson's ability to make plays with his feet has allowed him to separate in the battle this month. Due to the bum ankle, Richardson's effectiveness plummeted last season, as he was unable to escape the pocket or make plays on the run. Now healthy again, that mobility has returned this preseason. According to coach Paul Rhoads, Richardson also put in the work this offseason to improve his arm strength.

While Rohach's passing is his strength, he doesn't have Richardson's mobility, which limits Mark Mangino's playbook while he's on the field. Mangino had success at Kansas with Todd Reesing at quarterback, in part because of Reesing's versatility and athleticism.

Lanning has a big arm, but is clearly behind the other two while learning a second offense in as many years.

Prediction: After a banner performance in the spring game, Rohach appeared to be on track to keeping the starting job. But since Richardson has reclaimed the form that made him the apparent quarterback of the future at the end of the 2012 season, all signs out of Ames point toward Iowa State naming Richardson the starter -- possibly by the end of the day -- and banking that finally healthy again he can provide the quality stability at quarterback the Cyclones have long sought.

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