Iowa State Cyclones

Kyle Kempt takes ownership of Iowa State's offense

Senior quarterback will be calling some of the plays

Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Kyle Kempt (17) throws a pass during the first quarter of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Kyle Kempt (17) throws a pass during the first quarter of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

AMES — Two years ago, Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt wasn’t with the other quarterbacks.

While they were lifting, throwing and going over the game plan with the wide receivers, Kempt was with the tight ends and offensive linemen. But even back then, Kempt was showcasing his leadership ability and work ethic. That’s why, when Kempt got his opportunity to start against Oklahoma last season, tight end Chase Allen knew he’d be able to take advantage of it.

“(The tight ends) always knew about Kyle’s work ethic,” Allen said. “When he got that call and got the shot, I remember sending him a text before the Oklahoma game saying, ‘Hey man, I’m so proud of you. You’re going to kill it and I’m excited for you to get your shot.’”

Now, Kempt is in the offensive staff meetings, going over the game plan and game plan ideas. He only needs one more class to get his second degree, so he has plenty of extra time.

Against South Dakota State on Saturday at 7 p.m. inside Jack Trice Stadium, Kempt will be shouldered with about 50 percent of the play calling, Coach Matt Campbell said.

His growth from an afterthought lifting with the tight ends to becoming an on-field offensive coordinator has been remarkable, and he’s remained more than humble through it all.

“(Kyle) probably has as much, or more respect, than anybody that walks within these walls,” Campbell said. “He’s used that to his advantage — getting guys in when no one is around. Throwing, catching, watching video. He’s had almost complete ownership.

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“The quarterback, it’s almost like you’re the CEO of the program — you have to handle it that way. It’s equally important as the head coach in a lot of ways and you have to have the ability to own that. Kyle’s owned that in every step of the way. I’m excited for him.”

So is wide receiver Hakeem Butler.

During games in previous seasons, the offensive players would all have to stand up, look at the sidelines to get the play, get back in their stance and then go.

They don’t have to do that anymore.

“It’s beautiful,” Butler said. “You don’t have to keep looking over to the sidelines for the call because Kyle already has it in his back pocket. I think it’s just going to speed us up.”

Kempt built the trust with Campbell to let him call the plays by essentially being an extension of Campbell.

“(Calling plays), I think that comes with the territory of being in the system for a while — and they trust me, too,” Kempt said. “But that’s also me sitting in all of the meetings, so I know exactly what he’s thinking. Really, I might be calling the play, but he’s calling the play in a sense because I know what he wants.”

Kempt said there aren’t specific situations where he’ll call the plays, it’ll just be whenever Campbell lets him.

Iowa State doesn’t have an official offensive coordinator this season, but it doesn’t really matter all that much since Campbell called all the plays before, anyway.

Iowa State will have two coaches — Bryan Gasser and Joel Gordon — in the press box telling Campbell what they see and having some input in play calling.

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Now, instead of having only two vantage points one on the field and one in the box, Campbell has a third in Kempt who will be able to read and call things from behind center.

“Kyle can handle a lot of things,” Gasser said. “That’s different than quarterbacks we’ve had in the past. I think the one great positive is he has a little bit of extra time to be able to spend on the game plan and what we’re doing offensively. He’s a very mature quarterback that can handle the thought process of what we’re looking for, what we’re trying to find and he brings great suggestions. Having his feedback is huge for us.”

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