Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State quarterbacks: Can Kyle Kempt go wire-to-wire as the starter?

Cyclones have needed backup to play since 2010

Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Kyle Kempt (17) looks to throw as he warms up before the start 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) looks to throw as he warms up before the start of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

AMES — Iowa State’s quarterback situation has been a carousel since Austen Arnaud, the Cyclones’ quarterback in 2010.

Throughout the last seven seasons, different players were supposed to be “The Guy.” Whether it was Steele Jantz, Sam Richardson or, more recently, Jacob Park. None of them ever went wire-to-wire as the starting quarterback in any given season for one reason or another.

Sixth-year senior Kyle Kempt has an opportunity to break Iowa State’s streak.

Kempt made a name for himself last season when he was thrust into action for the Oklahoma game when Park took a leave of absence from the team for a personal medical issue.

Kempt set Iowa State’s single-season completion percentage record at 66 percent. He also passed for 15 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

Kempt seems to process information faster than the software he programs. According to Pro Football Focus Kempt had the highest passer rating on passes thrown in less than 2.5 seconds among returning Big 12 quarterbacks with a rating of 114.5.

He also has the highest passer rating on non-play action passes among returning FBS quarterbacks with a rating of 115.9.

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The knock on Kempt is his apparent lack of arm strength. Kempt said he added good weight in the offseason and he said it has helped him put more zip on the ball. But Kempt is über critical of himself and said he can improve in every area.

“I have to hold myself to high expectations every single day,” Kempt said during spring football. “I’m not coming out of practice every day feeling great because I know for us to get where we need to go, my level of play has to be really high. With the defense playing so well last year, I felt like we left some change on the table.”

His backup, Zeb Noland, has a cannon for an arm. Noland saw action in the Oklahoma State game and started against Baylor. The redshirt sophomore averaged 14.8 yards per completion, while Kempt averaged 11.1.

Noland has the ability to make every throw, but sometimes he tries to do too much with the ball and fit it into tight windows.

“Watching from Kyle and learning how to play smart and do the right thing when you need to and not trying to make every play, just make the play that’s called,” Noland said.

Behind Noland, Iowa State has two true freshmen in Re-al Mitchell and Brock Purdy. Campbell has said he’d like to use Mitchell and his speed in some specialized packages.

Quarterback is widely regarded as the most important position on the field. It’s vital that Kempt maintain his impeccable accuracy and decision making he showed last season.

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Kempt said he’s more confident this fall camp than he’s ever been. After four seasons, he’s finally getting the full-time reps with the No. 1 team and building chemistry with his targets.

Kempt appears on three preseason watch lists: The Davey O’Brien, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and the Manning Award. With the pieces around him, there is no reason Kempt can’t replicate and improve on last season’s performance.

And if Kempt does go down with an injury, Iowa State has a proven backup in Noland to take over, if needed.

“I can say that this quarterback room is the most prepared it’s ever been each day for practice,” Noland said.

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