Re-al Mitchell talks about his growth and becoming Iowa State’s backup quarterback.
Tommy Birch, firstname.lastname@example.org
AMES, Ia. — It has been over a decade since one Iowa State quarterback has started every game in a season. The hope is that sophomore quarterback Brock Purdy can end that streak this season. But if he can’t, the Cyclones already know who they’re turning to.
Iowa State passing game coordinator Joel Gordon said following Monday’s practice that redshirt freshman Re-al Mitchell is the clear-cut No. 2 quarterback right now. So, if something happens to Purdy, Iowa State’s returning starter, Mitchell, who has played just one college game, will be the next man in.
“We feel really good,” Gordon said about Mitchell. “Re-al’s done a great job so far into camp. And I don’t see that changing. He’s getting better, getting more comfortable and playing faster when it comes to the pass game aspect of it — getting ready and getting the ball out of his hand. He’s had a nice start to the fall camp.”
There’s no denying who the starting quarterback will for the Cyclones this season. It’s Purdy, a sophomore, who broke onto the scene last season, starting eight games and guiding Iowa State to a 6-1 record in those contests by passing for 2,250 yards and 16 touchdown passes. But Purdy’s emergence came after first string quarterback Kyle Kempt went down with an injury and backup Zeb Noland struggled.
That’s become almost the norm for Iowa State over the years. The Cyclones have rotated in and out of quarterbacks for over a decade now. The last Iowa State quarterback to start every game for the Cyclones was Austen Arnaud back in 2008. So, if anyone needs depth in the quarterback room and a reliable backup ready, it’s Iowa State.
“You guys know as well as me,” Gordon said, “you’re only as good as the next guy in line and you never know when that’s going to happen. The last three years of the history of the quarterback position where would prove that we’ve got to have guys ready.”
And if something did ever happen to Purdy, Gordon said Mitchell is ready to take on that role. The 6-foot, 195-pound quarterback graduated from high school early and arrived at Iowa State last January. But when Kempt went down and Noland struggled, the Cyclones handed the reigns over to Purdy. Mitchell, a dual-threat quarterback, played only once — at wide receiver — in Iowa State’s loss in the Alamo Bowl.
“I think he’s got a much better understanding of what’s going on and we’re running a lot of the same type of things as a year ago but there’s some new wrinkles,” Gordon said. “He’s just got a better feel and that turns into confidence for him. He has a much better understanding of what everybody’s doing — not just a couple of guys.”
While Mitchell said he would have been ready to roll last season if he was needed, he agreed with Gordon’s assessment that he is more prepared this season. And he has to be with Kempt finishing off his college career last season and Noland transferring.
“They’re gaining trust in me,” Mitchell said. “I get trust in myself and trust in the offensive staff. And ultimately, that’s what we need.”
Most importantly, the Cyclones need a reliable backup. And even a third stringer. To make sure that they had plenty of depth at the position, Iowa State brought in graduate transfer John Kolar as well. Kolar, the brother of Iowa State tight end Charlie Kolar, graduated from Oklahoma State and transferred to Iowa State. He’s still getting acclimated to things with the Cyclones, giving Mitchell the inside edge on the job.
“He’s working at it,” Gordon said. “He’s trying to make up for time that he wasn’t in this offense — terminology and really trying to build a great foundation to build on right now.”
Even if nothing happens to Purdy or if Kolar ends up the depth chart, the Cyclones still could find a way to utilize Mitchell on the field. The Cyclones had a package for him in the offense last season named “Blaze.” The package was named after Mitchell’s mom who was “Blaze” on American Gladiators. As it turns out, the experience at wide receiver in the Alamo Bowl could be a preview of what’s to come for him.
“There’s a lot of opportunities with a guy like him that can really run, really throw,” Gordon said. “He’s got a great understanding of how to get lined up, if he was doing anything else out on the perimeter. That’s definitely something that we’ll try to keep always within striking distance because he brings the ability of the big play.”
Purdy, who said he’s gotten help from Mitchell in practice and in meetings, agreed that Mitchell could add a wrinkle to the offense outside of the quarterback spot.
“He’s putting the team before himself and that’s a good thing — whether that’s packages or any way we can get him the ball,” Purdy said. “He’s one of the fastest kids on the team. So, he can help the team out bigtime.”
Quarterback? Wide receiver? Mitchell said he doesn’t care how he’s used in the offense.
“I see myself having whatever role coach (Matt) Campbell wants me to have,” Mitchell said. “We have all the trust in the world for him and his decisions. So, I’m going to do whatever I have to do to make sure the team’s successful.”
Source: Des Moines Register