Going into 2017, the quarterback position was just about the least controversial on the entire team, with Jacob Park expected to become one of the Big 12’s best on the heels of a better than expected 2016. However, after four games, Park took an indefinite leave of absence from the team to work through some personal issues. In stepped Kyle Kempt.
The journeyman redshirt senior from Massilon, OH had never gotten his fair shake in college, never playing a down at either Oregon State or Hutchinson Community College. After leaving Hutchinson, Kempt walked on to the Iowa State football team for Matt Campbell and became 2016’s Scout Team Player of the Year.
Park’s departure came during the week leading up to a matchup with the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman, in what would certainly be the most difficult game of the season. Surely, a guy that had never started a collegiate game in his life would be crushed by pressure of making his debut in Norman against Baker Mayfield and one of the most storied programs in college football history.
So what did he do? Kempt rolled into Norman with his level-headed, emotionless demeanor and went out and won the damn football game. Seriously. The guy out-dueled the eventual Heisman trophy winner, Baker Mayfield, in Norman.
After taking down Kansas and Texas Tech over the next two weeks, in came #4 TCU and the Big 12’s top ranked defense to Jack Trice Stadium. Even while nursing a shoulder injury, Kempt came in and threw for just over 200 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.
Here is Kempt’s unbridled, passionate, and emotional response to beating the #4 team in the country:
Long story short, Kyle Kempt became the model of consistency and dependability. The best way to describe Kempt is the arm and legs of 38 year-old Peyton Manning, mixed with the mind of Alex Smith. He combined patience, confidence, and decision making into an astounding 15 to 3 touchdown to interception ratio. His ability to limit (and almost entirely eliminate) turnovers, even without having anything resembling a strong throwing arm, was an important factor in Iowa State’s success on offense.
He isn’t a running threat, doesn’t have anything resembling a strong arm, and he had no experience. But you know what Kyle Kempt is? Guts, intelligence, and leadership in it’s most pure form. He showed that playing quarterback is about so much more than raw talent. Playing quarterback is just as much about making great decisions and being a leader, which Kempt did with flying colors. He also taught us all a lesson that sometimes the best solution isn’t the most obvious.
Kyle Kempt’s journey is remarkable, and will be remembered for a long, long time. Regardless of whether he ever plays another down of football, Kyle will be able to hang his head high and know that when he finally got his shot, he made the most of it.
Position MVP: Kyle Kempt
For all of the reasons described above, Kempt is the obvious winner here. Looking back, Kyle might have been exactly what the Cyclones needed to not only beat Oklahoma, but to have the season they did. Jacob Park is undoubtedly the more talented quarterback, but Kempt’s demeanor, intelligence, and mistake-free play was exactly the prescription for a young team heading into an extremely hostile environment in Norman.
Highlight of the Season:
There are certainly a lot of great candidates for this season. Kempt’s game winning throw to beat Oklahoma, and either of Zeb Noland’s long TD passes against Baylor make perfectly worthy candidates here, but (spoiler alert) those might end up in the season highlight reel for the receivers. My personal favorite throw from this season is actually the first goal line toss by Kempt in the Kansas State game. In a way, this throw is actually it’s own metaphor for this season for the quarterbacks. It’s a little wobbly and doesn’t have much zip on it, but completing this pass requires a quarterback and receiver on exactly the same page, and an accurate throw with great touch.
If you have a suggestion for Highlight of the Season by a quarterback, leave it in the comments.
The obvious choice here is Kempt, but for the sake of changing it up a little, I’m going to go with Zeb Noland. The redshirt freshman tore his ACL at the beginning of the 2016 season, forcing him out crucial practice reps in his true freshman season. After Kyle Kempt was forced out of the Oklahoma State game due to injury, the gunslinger from Georgia showed off his big arm and impressive accuracy in the second half against the Pokes, as well as in his first career start against Baylor. In the Baylor game, Matt Campbell and Tom Manning took advantage of Noland’s arm strength, dialing up an aggressive passing scheme that produced two long touchdown passes to Allen Lazard and Hakeem Butler.
Outlook for 2018
Kempt is currently waiting to hear back on a waiver application from the NCAA to gain a sixth year of elgibility, but let’s assume he does not get his extra year for the sake of argument.
Going into 2018, the Cyclones will not have much experience to rely on, with Noland being the only player in the quarterback room to have even participated in a regular season practice. Redshirt freshman Devon Moore tore his ACL during his first training camp, and will likely be seen as the backup heading into next season.
Highly-touted dual threat quarterback Re-al Mitchell is enrolled early at Iowa State, and will be involved in spring practices. He looks every bit the part of a multi-year starter later in this career, but Matt Campbell will probably prefer to redshirt him. That said, Mitchell is talented enough that he could begin pushing Noland with a strong spring and fall training camp.
If Kempt is not granted his extra year of eligibility, there’s a decent chance the Cyclones could pursue a graduate transfer to compete with Noland for the starting job. Former Washington quarterback and 4-star recruit K.J. Carta-Samuels has already taken a visit to Ames, and will be a player to keep an eye on going forward.
How would you grade the Cyclone quarterbacks for 2017?
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