‘Just growing every day’: Iowa State’s quarterbacks stood out in spring game

Payne Blazevich, Sports Reporter

AMES — Iowa State closed out its spring with a favorable offensive showing in the team’s spring game Saturday. 

The Cyclone offense discovered its groove after falling behind early, relying on first downs and competitions to rack up points. The unit pulled ahead in the Spring Game over the defense, led by a sharp performance from Iowa State’s three quarterbacks. 

The quarterback room took a jump this spring, as starter Hunter Dekkers prepared for his second year leading the offense while Rocco Becht and newcomer JJ Kohl continued to improve. 

“When you’re young, you grow forward, and I think you saw it as a team a year ago and I don’t think we’ve stopped,” head coach Matt Campbell said.

Iowa State was a young team led by a new quarterback last season. Dekkers took over for four-year starter Brock Purdy, and although he showed moments of excellence, the year was a mixed bag for the first-time starter.

Dekkers produced a 66.1% completion rate on 457 passing attempts, but his 14 interceptions were the most in the Big 12. He threw 19 touchdowns last season, but moments of ineptitude halted the offensive rhythm and limited the team’s opportunities to score.

With another spring under his belt as the leader in the quarterback room, Dekkers and the Cyclones made progress as the team prepares for another block of workouts this summer.

“It was a really hard spring, we had really hard practices everyday, so just the growth that this whole team had was really impressive this spring,” Dekkers said.

In his first showing since last season, Dekkers looked sharp under center, finding targets despite facing consistent pressure. He went 11-18 in pass attempts, racking up 101 yards against the defense. 

Dekkers also found wide receiver Jayden Higgins in the endzone for a touchdown, but the play was called back for an offensive penalty. Dekkers was consistent with his reads and found success pushing the ball down the field.

“Just growing every day, that’s kind of how this quarterback room worked this whole spring,” Dekkers said. “Everyone kind of grew every day and honestly just got better.”

Although Dekkers is the projected starter headed into next season, backups Becht and Kohl showed flashes in the spring game.

Becht, who redshirted while playing behind Dekkers last season, has only grown throughout his second offseason with the program. He threw for 112 yards and a touchdown to wide receiver Gabe Burkle in a strong showing against the defense. 

While Dekkers was taking the snaps, Becht had the opportunity to learn from his experience on the sideline and the practice field. As the young quarterback continues to log reps, he will continue to grow alongside Dekkers.

“He’s been here four years, he’s been through a lot, he knows a lot, he’s super smart,” Becht said. “Just picking out his knowledge everyday in the QB room and competing against him every day.” 

Kohl also displayed some of the talent that made him a highly-touted high school prospect. The former four-star completed 8 of 11 passes and threw a three-yard touchdown to tight end Andrew Keller. 

It took Kohl a little time to get settled in, tripping during his drop-back for a loss of yards early in the game, but the freshman showed off his touch and awareness after connecting on a few tough throws. 

Kohl is one of the youngest players on the field and he found an opportunity to stand out among the more veteran players in the quarterback room.

“For a kid that’s supposed to be getting ready for prom to be out here, honestly, playing football and getting live experience, I think it’s huge,” Campbell said.

As the Cyclones prepare to start summer workouts in May, the quarterback room will look to improve even further. For as much as a spring snapshot can show, Iowa State has options to rely on as the 2023 season approaches.

“We’re gonna have to have a great summer, we’re gonna have to have a phenomenal fall camp and the challenges aren’t getting easier from the first game of the season,” Campbell said. “They got 12 opponents and they got great talent, all great players, and we’re gonna have to continue to grow forward.”