COMMENTARY: Success heavily predicated upon quarterback play

Jake Calhoun

Last season was an exciting one for the ISU football team — very few would disagree, I’m sure.

The lasting images of students and fans alike storming the field — twice — still reverberate freshly in my memory and probably will for some time.

A thrilling triple-overtime victory against rival Iowa and a colossal double-overtime upset of No. 2 Oklahoma State — the largest in school history — on an ESPN primetime Friday night are pretty hard to top for a team that had won a combined five games in the two seasons before the arrival of coach Paul Rhoads.

It goes without saying, those upsets would not have been possible had it not been for consistent play from the quarterback.

“Quarterback is the most important position on the field,” Rhoads said Saturday, Aug. 18, after his team’s final scrimmage. “People kid themselves if they don’t feel it’s that way. If people say it’s not, it’s because they’ve got a lot, a lot of other talent around that they’ve just got to drive their car and not worry about the other.”

Coming into the 2012 season, the team is once again faced with a quarterback controversy involving Steele Jantz and Jared Barnett. Both managed to split time as the starter last season with Barnett’s upset of Oklahoma State trumping the victory against Iowa orchestrated by Jantz.

Barnett and Jantz showed great poise and resiliency in their wins last season, but they also showed moments of weakness.

In the team’s seven losses last season, Barnett and Jantz had a combined completion percentage of 48.6 percent, threw nine interceptions — six from Jantz — and were sacked 20 times for a total loss of 104 yards.

In covering the team last season, the feeling in the press box was that of anticipation — we sort of knew an interception would be thrown or a fumble would be lost, we were just waiting for when it would happen.

A few times we were pleasantly surprised, but the -11 turnover margin — 17 of the team’s 35 turnovers being interceptions — is a cry out for much needed improvement.

This season, Rhoads said Barnett and Jantz have been evenly matched along with redshirt freshman Sam Richardson, who is also in contention for the starting spot.

Richardson is somewhat of an outlier at this point since not much has been said about him. Barring any major development like last year’s academic ineligibility ruling of Jerome Tiller, however, this season’s quarterback decision will most likely come between Jantz and Barnett.

Some fans have optimism on one or the other, and I’m not saying you shouldn’t. Both can scramble and make something out of nothing, so to speak, but both have been known to buckle under pressure.

Jantz has admitted to not trusting his offensive line when he needs to — causing him to take off on more impromptu scrambles that sometimes lead to sacks — and Barnett has recognized his passing is his biggest area of improvement, so they aren’t in the dark in regards to their flaws.

Both Barnett and Jantz said they have improved since last season and while some of that may be “jock speak,” some fans can still have hope learning from last season’s mistakes will play dividends for them in the Cyclones’ upcoming gauntlet.

In all that I have heard so far from fall camp interviews, I honestly couldn’t say who I think the coaches are leaning toward choosing come Tuesday. Both have their upsides, both have their flaws, but saying the race has been a dead heat is far from an exaggeration.

Whoever is chosen, I’m sure he will still make it interesting to cover, fun to follow and entertaining to watch.

Jake Calhoun is a senior in journalism from Urbandale, Iowa.