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2020 Iowa State Football Position Previews: Quarterbacks

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Brock Purdy returns for what could be his final season in Ames before he potentially heads to the pros.

NCAA Football: Camping World Bowl-Notre Dame vs Iowa State Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Departures

Redshirt senior and grad transfer John Kolar sat at third on the depth chart last season after coming up from Oklahoma State to play alongside his brother for his final collegiate season, and has since departed without seeing a snap.

However, the biggest departure of the offseason is without a doubt the loss of prized recruit Re-al Mitchell to Temple, as he, understandably, left seeking more playing time. After garnering just a few snaps as a receiver during his redshirt 2018 season, it was believed heading into 2019 that his role would expand, and we’d see the offense incorporate him as a sort of “wildcat” quarterback to take advantage of his undeniable athletic ability.

We finally did get to see a glimpse of that offense when Re-al took control of the offense for a few series during the blowout of UL-Monroe. In that game, he went 1-of-2 passing, with the completion coming on a 9-yard touchdown throw to Sean Shaw. As expected, he also carried the ball four times himself, racking up 65 yards, 29 of which came on this nasty touchdown run.

We’ll always be left wondering what might have been with Re-al. He was probably a shoe-in to be the guy to take the reigns of the program after the departure of Kyle Kempt, but then Brock Purdy happened, and Re-al found himself pigeon-holed in a position he once thought was his for the taking.

And it’s not as if the kid isn’t extremely talented, because he is, but when the guy in front of you is Brock Purdy and the guys at all the skill positions are just as athletic as you, playing time is going to be hard to come by. I compared Re-al to Russell Wilson coming out of St. John Bosco High School in California, and still believe he can be that type of dynamic player, so here’s to watching Re-al Mitchell put lots of yards and points for the Owls.

Technically speaking, Easton Dean “departed” the QB room after switching to tight end last season. The depth he provided was certainly helpful, but I don’t think he ever had much of a future at the position given the existing and incoming talent. He’s apparently found his calling at tight end, so we’ll call this one a big net win.

New Guys

In what is certainly the best, and possibly most unusual, quarterback recruiting haul in program history, Iowa State landed two lefty quarterbacks for the class in Aidan Bouman and Hunter Dekkers. This was the second class in three years the Cyclones took to signal-callers, with the other being Re-al Mitchell and Brock Purdy’s 2018 class.

Aidan Bouman comes in as a tall pocket passer who does basically all of his damage from the pocket. Aiden Wyatt broke down his game earlier this summer, and talked about what we can expect from him going forward. TL;DR Aidan is basically a Kyle Kempt clone with a little better arm.

However, the really intriguing prospect that has everybody very excited is four-star dual-threat prospect and Elite 11 finalist Hunter Dekkers. The native Iowan owns the passing yardage and career offense records for Iowa high school football, and led West Sioux High School to multiple state titles during his career there, with the first coming in Class A during his sophomore year, and the second coming in class 1A during his junior year. They returned to the title game again his senior season, but were upset in the final by West Lyon.

Earlier this summer, Jake Brend compared Dekkers to former Ohio State quarterback JT Barrett, and it seems to be a pretty apt comparison. He’s a solidly-built guy with a big arm, and enough athleticism to be dangerous when scrambling out of the pocket, much like Brock Purdy. If I’m putting money down now, I’m picking him to become the starter whenever Purdy decides to make the jump.

Speaking of him....

Leader of the Pack

NCAA Football: Iowa State at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

What’s there really left to say about Brock? The guy owns 21 school records and led the emergence of Iowa State football to the status of “program people outside of Iowa actually care about and want to watch.” The second one actually might be his most impressive accomplishment.

Iowa State was obviously on the rise before he took over, but in my opinion, Kyle Kempt wouldn’t have been able to deliver at the same level Brock Purdy has been able to up to this point. I love Kyle, but Brock is just built different.

In 2019, Brock threw for 3,982 yards (5th in the country) and 27 touchdowns on 65.7% passing (18th in the country), set school records left and right, including single game completions (Ok St), single game total offense (510, UL-Monroe), single season total offense, single season passing yards, single season completion percentage, single season touchdown passes, single season play (number of snaps played), career 300+ yard passing games, career passing efficiency, and consecutive games throwing a pass (12).

He was also just five passing yards away from breaking Austen Arnaud’s single game passing record in the UL-Monroe game, and also tied the single passing touchdown record with five against Oklahoma.

By the end of the 2020 season (assuming we play the entire season), he’ll also own the records for career touchdowns responsible for. Given the shortened season, I’m guessing career attempts, completions, and yards may be just out of reach for this season, but should he come back for 2021, he’ll absolutely obliterate those records.

In some ridiculous universe where Brock uses this free season of eligibility AND his remaining two years of normal eligibility, he’d own virtually every single passing record possible at Iowa State, and set records that would be essentially untouchable by any future player going forward.

Camping World Bowl - Notre Dame v Iowa State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The argument against him being anything other than the greatest Cyclone quarterback of all time is basically non-existent at this point. In fact, I think there’s an argument to be made that his overall impact on the program gives him a solid case for dethroning Troy Davis as the greatest Cyclone football player ever.

Listen, Seneca was a truly great player that deserved every bit of hype he got, and should right be mentioned in that conversation. However, Brock’s body of work through just one-and-a-half seasons at Iowa State has launched him into the conversation as a Heisman dark horse contender and easily a top ten, arguably top five quarterback in the country.

Nobody knows how much longer we’ll have Brock. It could be just one more game if things totally go south regarding the pandemic, or it could technically be up 42 more (34 regular season games, three conference title games, and six CFP games) if he fully exhausts his eligibility. However, let’s all just sit back and I appreciate what we have while he’s still here, and watch true greatness sling a football all over Jack Trice Stadium.

Don’t Forget

Blake Clark, a redshirt sophomore from Dowling Catholic, is the only other quarterback in the room with a shot at ever appearing on the depth chart, though I would still categorize those chances as doubtful, as I expect both Dekkers and Bouman to jump ahead of him by the time the season starts if they haven’t already.

Clark likely won’t serve as anything more than an emergency depth piece this season, so much like the punter, here’s to hoping we never have to hear his name called.

2020 Projection

This is a really difficult one to predict given the shortened schedule and week-to-week instability, as well the young offensive line. Purdy will have plenty of playmakers around him if he’s got the time to throw, so the amount of progress the offense makes from 2019 will likely fall on their shoulders.

The 2019 was mostly average to slightly below-average, with a few bright spots, and a few really ugly spots (let’s forget the bowl game, shall we?). Early reports out of camp are that the hire of Dave Andrews has put the young, but talented group in position to take a step forward this season, despite the loss of three experienced starters. If that’s true, then I really like the ceiling of this offense. It has a chance to be one of the best in the conference.

Brock Purdy Stats & Projection

Year School Conf Class Pos G Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
Year School Conf Class Pos G Cmp Att Pct Yds Y/A AY/A TD Int Rate
*2018 Iowa State Big 12 FR QB 10 146 220 66.40% 2250 10.2 10.3 16 7 169.9
*2019 Iowa State Big 12 SO QB 13 312 475 65.70% 3982 8.4 8.7 27 9 151
2020 (Projected) Iowa State Big 12 JR QB 11 263 385 68.31% 3580 9.3 9.9 23 5 163.5

If we see an uptick in offensive line play as I mentioned earlier, I think there stands be a good shot that Purdy’s efficiency takes a significant jump as well. Another key factor is his health. Last season, Brock played with two bad ankles and a bad shoulder, which essentially robbed him of his threat as a runner. Teams took that part of his game less and less seriously as the season went on, and dedicated a spy less often, allowing them to play another man in coverage.

Also, I would expected there to be another playcalling debacle like we saw against Oklahoma State, where Brock inexplicably threw the ball 62 times, which ultimately led to OSU changing their defense and picking him off three times in the fourth quarter. Had the playcalling not completely failed him, his interception total would have actually decreased from 2018 to 2019, despite playing in four more games.

Either way, this offense will be electric, and Brock Purdy will be the reason why.