The Iowa State Cyclones are coming off a very disappointing 2013 season in which they finished just 3-9. Their struggles led to a change in the coaching staff the resulted in bringing Mark Mangino back into the Big 12 as the team’s new offensive coordinator. With Mangino now in the mix, Iowa State could be a very dangerous team in 2014 thanks to the return of a healthy Sam Richardson under center.
When healthy, Richardson can be as dynamic a threat as there is in the Big 12. Last season, he threw for 1,397 yards and 11 touchdowns in 11 games while rushing for another 356 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground. The issue for Richardson is that he can make some poor choices with the football, evidenced by his 55 percent completion percentage and seven interceptions. He was also hobbled a bit by an ankle injury, among other ailments, which ultimately got him shut down in the final month of the season.
But Richardson has a clean bill of health and by all reports has really taken to the new offense. While he struggled early on (dropping to third on the post-spring depth chart), Richardson dove in this summer, adding 15 pounds of muscle to help add some zip to his passes and immersing himself in the playbook. The coaching staff has raved about his efficiency during fall camp and think that it will translate into the season.
When he is on, Richardson can really carve up a defense. He showed that last season in a heart-breaking (and controversial) loss to the Texas Longhorns. In that game, Richardson was downright surgical, completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 262 yards, averaging a season best 10.1 yards per attempt, with two touchdowns. He also made plays with his legs, rushing for 83 yards on 17 carries. If he can play at that level consistently in 2014, Richardson could emerge as one of the better quarterbacks in the Big 12.
With playmakers like tight end E.J. Bibbs, wide receiver Quenton Bundrage, and running back Aaron Wimberly, an efficient trigger-man under center may be all Iowa State needs to shock a few teams in 2014. Will Sam Richardson be that type of leader for them?