Both of Iowa State's potential starters at quarterback had their shining moments last season. Steele Jantz led Iowa State to victories in their first three games of 2011 season, all comeback wins that included a three overtime victory against Iowa in which the senior-to-be threw four touchdown passes.
One reason the Cyclones found themselves in a hole early in the season, however, can also be attributed to Jantz's inconsistent play as such was the case against UConn when he threw three interceptions on his firsts four pass attempts putting the Cyclones in a 10-0 hole.
Jared Barnett took the reins midway through the season and lead Iowa State to an impressive 41-7 victory of Texas Tech. He followed up that performance by leading the Cyclones to the biggest win in school history by knocking off second ranked Oklahoma State when he contributed 460 yards of total offense.
The two are now battling for the starting quarterback spot in fall camp and Iowa State knows that to be better than their 6-7 record in 2011, both have to make their highlight reel contributions more of the norm rather than the exception.
Iowa State went through its first major scrimmage of fall camp over the weekend, and neither did enough to separate themselves from the other or if they did, ISU coach Paul Rhoads isn't saying. "It's deadlocked," Rhoads said of the QB race.
Jantz possesses the stronger arm while Barnett may be the better runner although Jantz isn't exactly lacking in that category, either.
Whoever ends up being the starter when ISU opens the season against Tulsa is likely to be the guy that the coaching staff feels is the best decision maker and doesn't turn the ball over, something each struggled with during their first seasons as a starting quarterback at the BCS level.
“You have to make plays, but you can’t give up the ball,” offensive Courtney Messingham said. “You’ve got to be able to make big throws without making big turnovers.” The duo combined to throw 17 interceptions in 2011 while completing just over 51% of their passes.
That can be a tough decision to make in practice while going up against your own defense. Making good decisions in practice is a start, but it's an entirely different matter when the bullets are flying for real in game situations.
My money is on Jantz to earn the starting job, but rest assured, whoever wins the job is going to have prove they deserve it on a weekly basis. If the starter turns the ball over with any regularity early in the year, the coaching staff likely won't hesitate to pull the plug and give the other guy his shot. If both struggle, the Cyclones could even turn to redshirt freshman Sam Richardson in a pinch.
The good news for both quarterbacks is Iowa State will feature a solid ground game which should alleviate some of the pressure on their passing attack. But you can bet opposing defenses are going to be loading up the box to stop the run meaning somebody is going to have to make plays with their arm
Who gets the first crack at it is won't be known for another week or two, but if Iowa State hopes to get back to another bowl game in 2012, solid play from their quarterback is a great place to start.