The quarterback position has been a roller coaster for Iowa State for the better part of the last decade. Jerome Tiller, Austen Arnaud, Sam Richardson, Jared Barnett, Steele Jantz, Grant Rohach, Jacob Park, Joel Lanning, Kyle Kempt, and Zeb Noland had all started games for the Cyclones between 2010 and the beginning of this season. The trend has continued into 2018, with three different starting quarterbacks already this season, but that doesn’t really tell the story.
By gaining a sixth year of eligibility, many thought Kempt had the chance to become the first quarterback to start every game of the season for Iowa State since Austen Arnaud, and become a stabilizing factor for an offense that had a chance to be explosive. However, against Iowa, Kempt injured his MCL and we haven’t seen him play since. Since the injury, Kempt has been roaming the sidelines, sometimes with a headset on and helping his fellow quarterbacks during the game.
Based on the word coming out of practices, Kempt might be ready to play against Texas Tech, but given the recent play of Brock Purdy, I’m not sure how you could justify playing Kempt, who hasn’t played in over a month, over Purdy who is absolutely scorching hot.
Zeb’s journey in Ames has been a long and winding one, with plenty of odd twists and turns along the way. First, he tears his ACL during training camp before his freshmen season, essentially preventing him from getting those critical scout team reps that freshmen tend to need in order to transition to college football. Following Jacob Park’s departure, Noland suddenly found himself at second on the depth chart behind Kempt. After Kyle went down against Oklahoma State, Zeb played well for the rest of that game and during his start against Baylor, before eventually handing the reigns back to Kempt.
Enter 2018, and Zeb was still sitting at the backup spot. Well, that is until Kempt got hurt again in the first quarter of the Iowa game. Noland was solid in the rest of that game, and played extremely well against Oklahoma, messing many fans to believe that he was going to be “the guy” going forward. Then an okay performance against Akron and a poor 14-28 performance against TCU that resulted in less than 100 yards passing ultimately put his job in jeopardy.
Against Oklahoma State, the plan was to give Zeb the first series, then let true freshmen Brock Purdy have the second series. Unfortunately for Zeb, he was sacked on the first play of the game, and his drive fizzled out two plays later. The next drive, Purdy took over, as planned, and proceeded to light the world on fire to the tune of five total touchdowns and one interception. However, Zeb was the first one to congratulate Brock on his success, highlighting the quarterback room’s comradery.
Once Kempt is healthy, Noland will likely find himself third on depth chart, but most fans would likely feel okay if he need to fill in should Purdy and Kempt both go down with injury.
After a wild recruitment that saw him choose Iowa State over a ton of other schools, including Alabama, fans were ecaststic at the proposition of such an exciting quarterback prospect joining the program. However, most didn’t expect him to be the first freshmen quarterback to see playing time, as the prevailing expectation was that speedster Re-al Mitchell would see the field first in a few specialty packages.
However, since hearing his number called for the second series against the Pokes, Purdy has been extraordinarily impressive, piling up seven passing touchdowns, a rushing touchdown, and just two interceptions. In fact, among FBS quarterbacks with at least 40 pass attempts, Purdy sits behind only Kyler Murray and Tua Tagovailoa in total QBR, per ESPN. He can make all the throws like Kyle and Zeb, but his legs make him significantly more dangerous, especially in read option situations with David Montgomery or Kene Nwangwu.
Purdy will likely be the starter against Texas Tech. Can we expect him to keep up his torrent pace against the Red Raiders? Who knows. He is just a freshmen, so mistakes should be expected. However, if he continues to be efficient and make plays in the running game, he’ll be the guy to lead the offense going forward.
Mid-Season Grade: B
Projected Final Grade: A-