AMES — Iowa State quarterbacks Kyle Kempt and Zeb Noland got into a routine over the summer.
One person would bring snacks, Kempt put on some music, Noland would bring an energy drink for himself and they would put on film.
“We planned to be there for a while,” Noland said. “It isn’t like we’re just in and out. We sit there, we laugh, we cut up if we see something on the screen that we think is funny.”
Or even if it wasn’t on the screen.
Noland is an avid outdoorsman — he once somewhat famously said during an interview in which he was wearing a brown and tan trucker’s hat, a brown long-sleeved shirt, jeans and brown boots that, “I’m trying to find a deer to kill around here somewhere.”
Noland describes Kempt as, “Plain Jane.”
“Kyle goes to the park and walks around,” Noland said with a laugh. “This summer, one time he came in (to watch film) and he got into some mosquitos and I gave him the hardest time about it for at least a week.”
But they’re also there to work, and they both handle each other’s criticisms well.
“We’re critical of each other because we trust each other and we know we don’t mean it in a (negative) way,” Noland said. “We have such a good connection of doing that, that it’s so easy to critique each other.”
Kempt emerged last season during the Oklahoma game. He played in eight games and set Iowa State’s single-season completion percentage record, completing 66 percent of his passes.
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His eight-game sample size was so impressive, Kempt has landed on three separate quarterback award watch lists — the Davey O’Brien, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and the Manning Award.
Noland was also impressive in the six quarters of playing time he got. He passed for 533 yards and two touchdowns in six quarters.
But it’s the offseason film sessions that will take them to the next step.
“When (Kempt) got done in the spring, it was clear that he was motivated and driven to get better,” quarterbacks coach Joel Gordon said. “He was in the film room all summer long working on his craft. He’s had a really good camp and I’m really happy with where he’s at right now.”
Kempt also gained 15 pounds in the offseason. The added weight, coupled with his film sessions has him more confident than ever.
“Confidence, ball velocity and how far I’m able to throw it,” Kempt said of what the added weight brings. “Really, the confidence is a big thing and being able to make all the throws with ease and getting it on time.
“I know earlier in college, some of the throws were hard for me to make. Like those deep out routes and all the deep kinds of throws. Now, I just feel so much more confident going back there and thinking, ‘I’m going to make this throw on time with what the defense is giving me.’ I don’t feel like I’m hindered at all, in any way.”
But he knows where his bread is buttered. It’s his accuracy and decision making.
“When you play quarterback, there are some things that are more important than the rest,” Kempt said. “Accuracy is one of those traits that rises above the rest. You see guys with great arms in the NFL and they only last so long. It’s really accuracy and decision making that are going to carry you in the long run.”
Kempt was always studying the game and situations so he could whet his decision making.
Even for the first 4 1/2 years of his college career when he wasn’t playing.
“He gets it,” Gordon said. “He understands why guys are going to be open, when they’re going to be open.
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“He never stopped learning, whether he was playing or not. Not playing for so long, a lot of guys bag it pretty early in that process. He didn’t. He didn’t stop learning. It doesn’t hurt that he’s the smartest guy on the field. He’s really intelligent.”
Kempt is one credit shy of completing his second degree from Iowa State.
“He’s a really mature guy,” Gordon said. “Everyone knows his story now. He was in a lot of quarterback meetings where he wasn’t the one — the questions weren’t getting directed toward him. He didn’t let that faze him for a long time. There was no doubt that we knew that this was a guy that was mature, he’s going to work at it really hard and when he got his chance, he made the most of it. He’s done everything in his power to keep working and get better at it.”
Now, he’s paying it back. Iowa State has two highly-touted true freshmen quarterbacks in Re-al Mitchell and Brock Purdy. Kempt knows what it was like to not be directed questions, so he’s making sure Mitchell and Purdy sharpen the mental part of their game, as well.
“When I get off the field from my reps, I talk them through what I’m doing,” Kempt said. “I’m there for them all the time, I’m peppering them questions like, ‘What are you supposed to do here, here and here?’ I’ll throw questions at them. I want them on the top of their game. I want to be the person they come to at all times for that.”
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