ISU Looking for Starting QB After Up-and-Down 2011

AMES, Iowa (AP) — It's been over a year since Iowa State's starting quarterback job came open.

The Cyclones still can't figure who their top guy will be.

Iowa State spent the first week of spring practice embroiled in yet another quarterback competition. This time, the Cyclones are hoping either Steele Jantz or Jared Barnett grab hold of the team's most important position.

Iowa State coach Paul Rhoads didn't offering any hints about the state of the competition on Tuesday, except to praise Jantz and Barnett for their work habits so far this offseason.

We have a very hungry football team," Rhoads said. "They wanted to be practicing, and it's true of (Jantz and Barnett) as well as they try to earn the No. 1 spot."

If all this sounds familiar, it should.

It was Jantz, the junior-college transfer, and Jerome Tiller who competed to be the No. 1 quarterback last spring, with Barnett a somewhat distant third in his redshirt freshman season.

Academic issues cost Tiller the season in August. Jantz both dazzled and disappointed in a six-week stint as the starter in 2011, giving way to Barnett.

Barnett's hold on the job seemed secure until the bowl game, when he was yanked in favor of Jantz after a terrible start. The Cyclones lost to Rutgers 27-13 in the Pinstripe Bowl to finish 6-7, and Jantz and Barnett have shared the top of the depth chart ever since.

Jantz, now a senior, led Iowa State to a 3-0 start by rallying the Cyclones with fourth-quarter comebacks in each game. But inconsistency, inaccuracy and a left foot injury late September conspired to send Jantz to the bench until the bowl game in Yankee Stadium.

Jantz, who was often more adept with his feet than his arm, finished with 10 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions and a 53.5 completion percentage.

Jantz might have kept the starting job if he hadn't played so poorly while trying to overcome his foot injury, which he suffered in a win at Connecticut. But Jantz said his foot feels normal again.

"It feels really good to be running full speed again," Jantz said. "I was kind of starting to feel better at the end of last season, and so I was excited to get into spring ball."

For Barnett, the Pinstripe Bowl was a harsh reminder that nothing's guaranteed with a rebuilding program such as Iowa State's.

Barnett was behind center for the biggest win in school history, a 37-31 double overtime victory over then-No. 2 Oklahoma State that kept the Cowboys from playing in the national title game. Barnett showed tremendous poise in that game, but he appeared rattled against Rutgers and was pulled in the second quarter.

Barnett, who wasn't available to reporters Tuesday, completed 50 percent of his pass attempts a year ago. Rhoads has said all along that whoever wins the starting job will have to be more accurate than they were in 2011.

Redshirt freshman Sam Richardson likely won't push Jantz or Barnett this spring. Neither will Tiller, who's in the early stages of a transition to wide receiver and is enough of a novice at the position that it's still too early to tell if he can have an impact in 2012.

"He's catching the ball well. He's running quality routes. He doesn't quite have the speed and athleticism of some of the guys in front of him," Rhoads said of Tiller.

For Jantz, the offseason offered a chance for reflection after an up-and-down first season of Division I play. Jantz is hoping the experience he earned in 2011 will help him seize the starting job in 2012.

"I've kind of learned that it's just all about making good decisions and being smart out there," Jantz said. "There's not so much anxiety about what it's going to be like. Now I know what it's like, so I can just focus on being a better quarterback.
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