AMES, Iowa (AP) – Iowa State is giving Steele Jantz another crack as the starting quarterback.
The Cyclones are optimistic they’ll see Jantz play like he did in a stunning win against rival Iowa last fall. They’re also hoping they won’t be forced to watch Jantz unravel like he did in 2011.
Coach Paul Rhoads announced Tuesday that Jantz, a senior, will start for Iowa State against Tulsa on Sept. 1, ending the competition between Jantz and sophomore Jared Barnett.
Rhoads said the staff was looking for three key factors in a starting quarterback: decision-making, productivity with their feet and, most importantly, accuracy.
The Cyclones left fall camp feeling that Jantz had proven himself to be their best option behind center.
“Overall, Steele just emerged in all of those areas as being the top guy at this point,” Rhoads said.
Jantz started seven games for Iowa State in 2011 after transferring in from junior college. And it was his second appearance that left many believing that the Cyclones had found themselves a star.
Jantz was electric in taking down the Hawkeyes in triple overtime, 44-41, completing 25 of 37 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns. But he went out and threw three interceptions the following week in a 24-20 win at Connecticut — and sustained a foot injury that affected him the rest of this season.
Jantz’s play kept deteriorating, and the Cyclones yanked him in favor of Barnett, a sophomore, in the first quarter of a loss to Texas A&M.
Barnett quickly reeled off three straight wins, including a program-defining upset of then-No. 2 Oklahoma State. But he struggled in a 27-13 loss to Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl and was benched in favor of Jantz.
Jantz threw 10 touchdown passes against 11 interceptions a year ago, including two in the bowl game. Still, Rhoads says Jantz’s skill set is ideal for Iowa State’s spread offense — as long as he’s taking care of the ball.
“There’s always that possibility, and it’s a concern. Is he better? Sure he is. He’s better in every way. He’s a better athlete. He’s a better runner, and I think we’d all agree that he was a pretty dynamic runner a year ago. But as the season unfolds, we’ll try to keep those mistakes minimized and in check,” Rhoads said.
Rhoads said Barnett had figured out by the end of fall camp that Jantz was likely going to be the starter, adding that losing out to Jantz should motivate Barnett to improve.
Barnett will probably see the field in 2012 anyway, given how 2011 played out between the two. But Rhoads indicated that he doesn’t want Jantz to play as though he is one mistake away from being yanked either.
“Not short leash. I informed them that I don’t have a hook ready to use in the Tulsa game,” Rhoads said. “But it’s a position that will be evaluated every week just like every other position.”
KEVIN LONNQUIST’S TAKE: The good news is that coach Paul Rhoads made a decision and the team has to rally behind Jantz. I saw Jantz against Baylor in 2011 and thought he was a decent quarterback. He’s not a playmaker but he’s a tough kid. The Cyclones will need some toughness if they are going to be in the bowl mix. Jared Barnett may be more athletic but he’s not there yet. However, if you read Rhoads’ first quote, he finished with, “…at this point”. That means this decision isn’t ironclad, but it’s the best way to start the season. While I think this is a good decision, it’s probably a game-by-game and serie-by-series scenario.