We'll take a look at some of the Big 12's breakout stars this spring, but we'll move forward with a series today looking at guys who will be stepping into bigger roles this season and what they have to provide for their new teams. Some are emerging from role players into starters. Some are going from starter to star. Some from stars to bona fide superstars.
Let's move on with Iowa State.
Iowa State's spring step forward: QB Sam Richardson
You'll hear some chatter about Grant Rohach once Iowa State officially kicks off spring practice on March 26. I don't quite buy it yet. After Steele Jantz graduated and Jared Barnett transferred, it's clear that Richardson's late-season takeover of the starting quarterback spot was just the beginning for him.
It's not set in stone, though, and even if I don't buy Rohach as a guy who would win the starting job this spring, poor play by Richardson in the fall may force Paul Rhoads to yet again dig into his bench to search for answers. The quarterback spot has spelled trouble for Rhoads, which really does make Iowa State's streak of three bowl games in four seasons under Rhoads even more amazing. ISU just can't seem to find any consistency at the spot, but you'll have to show some grace early on when it comes to numbers. Richardson won't be getting much help in the immediate future, so you'll have to trust Rhoads and offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham's assessments more than just his raw numbers.
Iowa State's top three receivers -- Josh Lenz, Chris Young and Aaron Horne -- are all gone, and Richardson will have to rely on undersized jukebox Jarvis West and tight end Ernst Brun Jr. when practice begins. Will more targets emerge? They'll have to if Richardson is going to put up respectable numbers compared to his Big 12 counterparts. Look for Quenton Bundrage and senior Albert Gary to make a few plays. Richardson's got a lot to prove this spring, and one solid performance against Kansas, one of the Big 12's worst defenses, isn't enough to assure him much. He struggled mightily in the bowl game loss to Tulsa and couldn't string together completions against even West Virginia, though he did toss three scores and no interceptions. He completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes in two of his three starts, and he'll have to take steps forward this spring to get that percentage closer to 60 on a consistent basis in the fall. Iowa State needs it.