By Chris Williams, CycloneFanatic.com PublisherFollow Chris on Twitter @ChrisMWilliams
AMES — Jared Barnett. Iowa State’s sophomore quarterback who orchestrated the biggest win in school history last November over then second-ranked Oklahoma State. He’s Steady Eddie.
“Jared was very efficient with his reps,” said head coach Paul Rhoads of Barnett’s performance in last Saturday’s scrimmage. “He’s not a flashy guy. He doesn’t have the biggest arm but his football teams were productive.”
Steele Jantz. This senior’s Houdini acts in wins over Northern Iowa and Iowa were legendary in 2011. But while Jantz looked brilliant at times, the overall body of work of his junior season was sporadic and often left fans and coaches uneasy.
“Steele was a little flashy,” said Rhoads of Jantz on Saturday. “He showed us the same guy that we saw in the first two and a half games with his escape ability. With his ability to make people miss. He does have great velocity on his ball.”
And then there’s the youngster – the dark horse – in freshman Sam Richardson.
“Sam Richardson, I would argue is the most natural of the three at the position,” said Rhoads. “He makes some things look easy and at other times looks like the freshman that he is and tries to force things at this time.”
Unlike that of a year ago (with Jerome Tiller, Jantz and Barnett competing), this appears to be a two-man tussle as spring football is set to end after this Saturday annual spring game (which begins at 2 p.m. in Jack Trice Stadium). Barnett and Jantz split time with the ones and twos in Iowa State’s last scrimmage while Richardson orchestrated the twos and the threes.
With that being the case, here is what Paul Rhoads and new offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham have to work with.
Barnett is the intangibles guy. He’s a natural leader – a safe pick who has proven that despite his physical shortcomings (arm strength, height, etc.), he can lead a team to big wins in and thrive in clutch situations.
Jantz is Iowa State’s version of Brett Favre. He’ll look like a Heisman Trophy contender one minute and leave you wanting to rip out your hair the next.
Barnett fumbles too much (he had 11 of them last season although only three were lost). Jantz throws too many interceptions (11 while only playing in nine games/starting seven).
The one common theme between the two is that both need to be smarter and more efficient (Jantz completed 53 percent of his passes. Barnett completed 50 percent of his.) in 2012.
There’s little doubt that physically, Jantz’s ceiling triumphs that of Barnett’s. But there’s so much more to playing quarterback than what a guy can do with his body. It’s about leading 10 other guys down the field and putting points on the scoreboard.
In this specific situation, what’s a coach to do?
“Does Steele need to manage better? Yes he does. I’m not saying he’s not but he needs to manage better and because Jared maybe lacks some of the physical attributes, he’s really got to be on point with that part of his game,” said Rhoads.
When fall camp wraps up in August, the battle to be Iowa State’s starting quarterback to start against Tulsa on Sept. 3 is likely going to come down to brains as much as it is arms and legs.
If Jantz’s “flash” becomes less flashy and is just what he does on a consistent basis during his second year in Ames, he’ll probably be the guy. If Barnett’s game-managing skills improve to the point where he isn’t only the safe pick but the smart one as well, it’s his job to lose.
According to Rhoads, both men are better off in the mental aspect of the game than they were a year ago.
“To be the quarterback, you should have close to as thorough and understanding as the coach does. You really should,” said Rhoads. “I don’t think they had that a season ago. I think they’re a lot closer to that now. I think they can give you answers.”
Not only are both quarterbacks a year older and wiser, things are different in Ames. The days of Tom Herman’s massive playbook are over. While Iowa State has kept the majority of Herman’s offense in tact (as has Rice, where Herman left for Ames when Rhoads was named the head coach), it’s easier to be a Cyclone quarterback this spring than it was the last three years.
The goal is that in 2012, whoever the signal caller is will do less thinking and more reacting.
Barnett or Jantz? Jantz or Barnett? Blah. Blah. Blah.
It doesn’t really matter. A year ago (once Jerome Tiller was ruled academically ineligible), no matter which direction Rhoads went, Iowa State was going to enter the season with a quarterback who had literally no division one experience whatsoever.
Now, Rhoads has two guys who have proven that they can win games and take care of business in a different manner compared to the other.
Regardless of who wins the job, Iowa State is in a better spot now compared to that of a year ago.
For more discussion on Iowa State’s quarterback competition among other Cyclone football topics, tune into the CycloneFanatic.com/Wilson Toyota of Ames Spring Game Preview Show from 11:30-1 this Saturday on 1460 KXNO. Tron Smith, Austen Arnaud and Chris Williams will be broadcasting life from the Cyclone Gridiron Club’s annual tailgate just north of the Olsen Building.