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AMES — If you’re peering into the Iowa State huddle expecting Joel Lanning to be giving the rah-rah speech to his guys, you won’t see it.
That’s not his style.
The junior quarterback has never been one to get in anybody’s face, and as far as coaches are concerned, that’s just fine. What Lanning has provided since the new coaching staff stepped on campus can’t be achieved through his words.
Lanning’s leadership has developed through his ability to not change his essence in any situation.
“Who Joel Lanning is, is the same guy that I watched all summer,” said Iowa State coach Matt Campbell. “Every rep he took in terms of summer conditioning he wins. When it’s really hard, Joel’s out front.
“When it’s really, really tough and everybody wants to bag it, Joel is the guy that’s got the ability to wrap his arms around one of his teammates and push him through.”
Through six games last season, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Lanning was used sparingly, but was thrust in as the main guy against Baylor where he went 12-for-17 passing with 144 yards and three touchdowns, albeit in a loss. He started, and won, his first game against Texas the following week.
Lanning was 107-for-193 passing for 1,247 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games and was the second-leading rusher on the team with 330 yards and four touchdowns. As an all-state wrestler at Ankeny, Lanning has the body more like a linebacker than a quarterback and showed his ability to be physical on the run.
There were times Lanning would seek out the opposing linebacker as if he was trying to make him pay for even thinking he could bring him down. Lanning hasn’t lost any of that mentality, but now he’s going to pick his spots.
“It’s part of the game and it’s fun to do that, but I’ve got to recognize now that it’s not high school football anymore where I’d be the biggest guy on the field,” Lanning said with a hint of a smile. “Every linebacker is my size or bigger and it’s kind of scary when you’re running at them a little bit. So I’ll be getting down a little bit when those guys come around.”
Added maturity as a player has also helped Lanning with his throwing mechanics. He’s always been lauded for having a strong arm, but the accuracy has been a constant emphasis for improvement. He had a 55 percent completion rate last season and would short arm his throws at times.
Through offseason work with quarterbacks coach Jim Hofher, he developed a bigger base. Lanning needed a foundation.
“You don’t see these windmills out here for wind power on these little tiny bases,” Hofher said. “They’ve got a pretty big base. They have to to do their job. A quarterback’s got to do the same thing. He’s got to be able to have a base and it’s hard to have a base if you’re really hopping up and down. Having a nice base.”
Lanning and the quarterbacks worked on drills that had them roll to the left, slow down and establish their feet before throwing back to the right. Whether he was on his own or in a group, Lanning always kept his mechanics in mind.
“I feel like I’m getting the ball out way quicker,” Lanning said. “I can see the play faster because if I’m slow with my feet then it’s going to take a lot longer for me to see the routes and stuff like that. When I get my feet quickly set up and I’m right, then I feel fine. And I’m accurate right now.”
A quicker, more accurate Lanning would be a nice compliment to running back Mike Warren and wide receiver Allen Lazard too. They are the three-headed monster of the ISU offense, but it all starts with Lanning in the backfield.
Lanning has taken on the responsibility with open arms.
“He’s the leader of our team,” Lazard said. “He’s the quarterback and he’s the one that’s going to be in the newspaper on Saturday whether we win or lose. He’s just got to understand that and I think he’s done a great job.”
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