AMES — Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell tried to temper expectations on sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy.
Campbell said all he wanted Purdy to do was progress from a freshman to a sophomore, whatever that means.
Campbell’s coaching staff didn’t seem to get the memo.
Receivers coach Nate Scheelhaase was asked during fall camp which receiver could become the next Allen Lazard or Hakeem Butler and be the go-to guy for Iowa State. Scheelhaase said a rising tide raises all ships and Purdy is the Cyclones’ rising tide. Any receiver could be the go-to guy with Purdy’s impressive play.
Tight ends coach Alex Golesh was asked if tight end Dylan Soehner could be the offense’s x-factor because he’s able to line up as a fullback and run block as well as catch the ball consistently. Golesh simply said, no, Purdy is the offense’s x-factor. Iowa State’s offense will go where Purdy takes it.
As a freshman, Purdy was the primary quarterback for Iowa State in nine games. He threw for 2,250 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions on 146-of-220 passing.
Now in his second fall camp, Purdy is grasping the playbook and offensive concepts better.
“With his work ethic, it was only a matter of time before things start to get easier,” Iowa State passing game coordinator Joel Gordon said. “He’s worked really hard at trying to improve in all aspects of being a quarterback. It’s paying off for him.”
The biggest thing Purdy wanted to work on in the offseason and during fall camp was having better pocket presence. Purdy rushed 308 yards and five touchdowns last season.
“Being patient in the pocket has been a pretty big emphasis,” Purdy said. “Every single day in the first week of camp it’s gotten a lot better. I trust 100 percent of my linemen.
“I’ve gotten even more calm and more poised in the pocket. Last year, I was kind of antsy on my feet and trying to make plays all the time. Now I’m letting it come to me. Everything has mellowed out.”
The game is getting slower for backup quarterback Re-al Mitchell, too. Mitchell, a redshirt freshman, is actually the quarterback that’s been in Iowa State’s system the longest because he was an early enrollee.
Iowa State fans know better than anybody that the backup quarterback is among the most important positions on the field. Iowa State hasn’t had a quarterback go wire-to-wire in a season since Austen Arnaud in 2008.
Mitchell’s strongest attribute is his athleticism, but the coaches wanted him to become more comfortable in the pocket.
“We feel really good with our backup quarterback situation,” Gordon said. “Re-al has done a really good job so far in camp and I don’t see that changing. He’s getting better every day and he’s making decisions faster when it comes to the pass game. He’s making his reads and getting the ball out of his hand. He’s had a great start to camp.
“He wants to be a guy that can sit in the pocket and play that position the right way instead of running for no reason.”
But with Re-al’s superb athleticism, the coaching staff wants to get him involved in the offense, even if it’s not at quarterback.
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“There are a lot of opportunities with a guy like Re-al,” Gordon said. “He can really run, he can really throw, and he has a great understanding how to get lined up if he was doing anything else on the perimeter. That’s something we’ll try to keep within striking distance. He brings the ability of making a big play.”
Iowa State’s quarterback situation has been unstable since the Arnaud days. But it finally appears like the Cyclones have a de facto starter and a quality backup to go along with. The quarterback position should be a known strength for the first time in over a decade.
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