AMES (AP) — Iowa State quarterback Joel Lanning had his moments after earning the starting job midway through last season.
The Cyclones will need to see more than just glimpses of promise from Lanning this fall if they hope to end a three-year bowl drought.
Lanning, who’ll be a junior in 2016, is the only quarterback for Iowa State that’s taken a collegiate snap. So his progress this offseason is perhaps the biggest area to watch as coach Matt Campbell enters his first season as coach.
The Cyclones, who have only Lanning and redshirt freshman Dominic De Lira as quarterbacks on scholarship this spring, end camp with a scrimmage on April 16 at Jack Trice Stadium.
“That position is all about poise, because that’s leadership position on the offense. Number two is accuracy in throwing the football. Number three is, great quarterbacks have the ability to have great leadership around them — and then you fit everything else around him,” Campbell said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised that Joel has got those intangibles.”
Lanning, who turned down Nebraska to play for the Cyclones, had been groomed to take over as Iowa State’s No. 1 quarterback in 2016.
But Lanning forced the issue in 2015, supplanting Sam Richardson as the starter as the Cyclones season started to get away from them.
Lanning impressed immediately, throwing for 188 yards and running for 64 more in a 24-0 shutout of Texas, his first career start, on Oct. 31.
Iowa State subsequently imploded down the stretch, losing four straight and costing coach Paul Rhoads his job. However, Lanning had stretches of strong play.
He helped the Cyclones take a 24-7 lead in the first half against then-No. 5 Oklahoma State. But a late turnover on downs and an interception gave the Cowboys the win.
Lanning had Iowa State in position to win at Kansas State as well, going 15-of-20 passing for 210 yards and a touchdown. He also fumbled with 10 seconds left deep in Iowa State territory and the game tied at 35, allowing the Wildcats to kick the deciding field goal.
Lanning completed just 55 percent of his passes with 10 TDs last season. He also ran for 330 yards and four TDs, including two against Oklahoma State.
Lanning’s biggest issue so far has been his accuracy, which tended to come and go in 2015. So Lanning has spent a lot of time this month working on his footwork.
“They like that I’m a running quarterback. They want to see me run it a little bit more,” Lanning said of his new coaches. “It’s just been new to me to do the new footwork that they want. I had some bad habits before, and I’m just trying to get rid of those things.
“It’s slowly coming along. I’ve made progress with my feet. The accuracy will come when my feet are right.”
If Lanning can get his completion percentage up, he would seem to be a perfect fit for Campbell’s run-based attack.
At 6-foot-2 and 232 pounds, Lanning has the somewhat rare ability to get rushing yards between the tackles — and he’s got a big enough arm to test defenses that focus on stopping the run.
“I still have to go out and compete and show the new coaches that I can be that guy for them and run this offense and lead a team,” Lanning said.
But Lanning’s challenge during spring ball, beyond becoming more accurate, will be to learn the verbiage of yet another new offense. Lanning will be playing for his fourth offensive coordinator this fall.
“If the quarterback doesn’t know what he’s doing, then our opportunity to be successful is probably zero,” Campbell said. “It’s been really nice for Joel to start from square one.”