AMES (AP) — By the end of October, nearly every team in the country knows what it has and what it doesn’t.
Iowa State has become the team without a quarterback.
Issues at the game’s most important position have threatened to derail Iowa State’s once-promising season. The Cyclones (4-3, 1-3 Big 12) have dropped three of their last four games after a 3-0 start in large part because of the league’s worst passing attack.
It’s gotten so bad that coach Paul Rhoads has made the starting job for Saturday’s home game against Baylor (3-3, 0-3) a three-man race. Steele Jantz, Jared Barnett and untested freshman Sam Richardson will all compete in practice this week for the right to start against the Bears.
“I want to see who the best guy is on the field and then also playing into it is what’s happened in games thus far this season,” Rhoads said.
Unfortunately for Jantz and Barnett, they’re used to such uncertainty. Each of them has been yanked from the No. 1 spot twice in the past year.
Jantz opened 2011 as the starter, only to lose the job to Barnett midway through the season. Barnett was then pulled in favor of Jantz early in Iowa State’s loss to Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl. Jantz barely made it to conference play before the coaching staff went back to Barnett — who played so poorly in last week’s 31-10 loss to Oklahoma State that Jantz finished the game.
The constant swapping has yet to produce any results. And since neither Jantz nor Barnett can seem to put it all together, the Cyclones have finally let option No. 3 get a serious crack at the job.
Richardson, a 6-foot-2, 207-pound native of Winter Park, Fla., was a three-star recruit who redshirted last season. He started his first eligible season far behind Jantz and Barnett and never came close to challenging either one.
But Iowa State is 88th in the nation in passing yards, 98th in passer rating and last in the Big 12 with just 169.2 passing yards in league games.
It might just be time to see what Richardson can do in a game setting.
“I don’t know if he has to be two times better than (Jantz and Barnett). Jared was better than the other guys in practice last week,” Rhoads said of Richardson.
What’s made the ineptitude behind center even more disheartening for Iowa State is that its defense has played well enough to keep them in every game.
The three teams Iowa State has lost to, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State, all rank in the top 10 nationally in scoring offense. But the Cowboys, Red Raiders and Wildcats were all held far below their normal outputs by Iowa State’s defense, which by all accounts is the best one the school has had in years.
It’s certainly good enough to get the Cyclones back to a bowl game.
But Iowa State won’t be going anywhere if it can’t get markedly better play out of its quarterbacks.
Jantz, Barnett and Richardson weren’t made available to reporters Tuesday. After briefly addressing the media about the quarterback situation, Rhoads also said he was going “mute” about it.
But running back Jeff Woody said the three quarterbacks have handled the situation with maturity and determination.
“They’re not just laying down. They’re not just saying, ‘You know what? Steele’s got it or Jared’s got it or Sam’s got it.’ They’re all fighting for the position and they’re all trying to do the best they can,” Woody said.