AMES — In deciding who Iowa State’s starting quarterback will be this fall, offensive coordinator Mark Mangino needs one thing: his trained set of eyes.
Mangino, along with the approval of coach Paul Rhoads, decided they will need to use those trained eyes for a few more days before naming a starter.
At Iowa State’s Media Day on Sunday, Rhoads told reporters there was “no separation” between red-shirt junior Sam Richardson and red-shirt sophomore Grant Rohach. As of right now, the two quarterbacks are listed on the same line on the depth chart.
“Both did some good things in the scrimmage yesterday, both did some things that didn’t allow them to step forward and grab a hold of the No. 1 spot,” Rhoads said.
While there may not be any separation right now, the coaching staff anticipates making a decision on who will become the starter sometime this week.
Rohach started the final four games of the season last year for the Cyclones, tallying two wins to end the schedule against Kansas and West Virginia. While he said there was certainly momentum from last season heading into the off-season and fall camp, there still is plenty he can do to get better starting with cutting out some mental errors.
“Small, minor things that could cost drives and ruin the momentum of an offense I think are things I need to work on,” Rohach said. “[I was] trying to force something and trying to impress the coaches or something like that and I’ve just got to run the offense efficiently and not go out of the means that I can do.”
Plagued with nagging ankle injuries all of last season, Richardson — who started the first eight games of last year — finally feels healthy and has worked in the off-season to add weight to his frame. He is 6-foot-2 and now 221 pounds, which he achieved by not just working out but also eating healthier and trying to eat at least every 2-3 hours daily.
Something Richardson — and Mangino — have noticed as an improvement in his quarterbacking ability is how much velocity he is able to throw with the football now.
“Definitely much more velocity on the balls I throw and that was also something I wanted to improve this off-season,” Richardson said. “Running-wise, it’s the same speed and now it’s just being able to carry it [with added weight]. It’s something that really worked out well this off-season for me.”
Something Mangino also became aware of was how much time Richardson spent — on his own — in the film room studying himself, other quarterbacks and the offensive system. Mangino feels all of that, plus Richardson’s work in the weight room, has led to the increased velocity which he hopes can lead to productivity.
In Rohach, Mangino sees a hard worker who has a “good grasp on the management of the offense.” Despite the positives he has seen in both players, there are still things that one can do to officially separate himself as the starter.
“[Rohach’s] throwing and Sam’s throwing are kind of different on different routes,” Mangino said. “There are certain routes that suit Sam better and there are certain routes that suit Grant better.
“It’s a close race.”