Unlike in years past when quarterbacks headlined the player list for the Big 12 Conference Media Days, this year’s list of quarterbacks in attendance were limited. Only three of the ten Big 12 teams brought a signal caller to Dallas for the annual event.
Out of those three, the most experienced donned the cardinal and gold of Iowa State.
Sam Richardson not only entered as one of the three gunslingers, but also the oldest and most experienced out of the group.
“I think so, obviously being a fifth-year guy, I don’t think there’s any fifth-year quarterbacks,” Richardson said. “I’m one of the older guys in the league now. I’ve got a lot of experience and it definitely has to be a team that I lead and score more points than the other team. That’s the mentality that I take every game.”
Overall Iowa State, which was picked to finish ninth in the conference in 2015, is coming off a down season, going 2-10 and 0-9 in Big 12 play.
But entering 2015, the Cyclones and head coach Paul Rhoads believe Richardson is the man to lead them to a turnaround year.
“Having Sam Richardson as a fifth year guy, knowing what his capabilities are,” Rhoads said. “Yes it’s comforting.”
Along with Richardson, the seventh-year Iowa State head coach said Grant Rohach is key too, after starting some last season, which gives them two guys with experience.
In 2014, Richardson led the Cyclones going 254-for-451 for 2,669 yards, 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions, making him the sixth-best quarterback in the Big 12, while Rohach went 27-for-54 for 283 yards two touchdowns and an interception in three appearances.
Entering this season, Richardson will have one key weapon back to throw to – wide receiver Quenton Bundrage.
Last season, Bundrage tore his ACL on the fourth play of the game, ending what seemed to be a promising season following a stellar sophomore season. Bundrage caught 48 passes for 676 yards and a Cyclone-record nine touchdowns.
Back healthy for his senior year, Bundrage said he is happy to have a quarterback with the experience that Richardson has throwing up the ball.
“I’m extremely happy, because I’m fully happy now and me and him we’ve been on the same page for a long time,” he said. “We have good chemistry and just knowing that he still trusts me shows a lot of commitment.”
That chemistry as a team was enhanced even more two weeks prior to the crew coming to Dallas.
Richardson called a team meeting on his own. Seeing his quarterback do this shows that he cares, Rhoads said, and flashes signs of his true leadership.
For his teammates, they saw exactly that and more from one of their leaders into this new season.
“The atmosphere in that meeting was intense, but everyone understood what he was talking about. You can tell he’s being more of a leader now,” Bundrage said. “Not necessarily because he’s the quarterback, but because that’s what he feels like he needs to do to help better this team. He’s more confident and more comfortable being that leader.”
During the meeting, Richardson showed all the plays from last season’s games that they were close in. As it often does, it was a play here or there that cost them in the end.
Being so close has been tough, Richardson said, as the Cyclones dropped their final six games and lost three of their nine Big 12 games by five points or less.
Heading into his final season, Richardson said he believes in this team and believes they have the pieces to win and win big.
“I have to think that way,” he said. “It’s my last year, so I’m thinking we’re going to win the National Championship. I’m taking every week as a confident team trying to go out there and win a football game.”
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