Every season, every player feels they've got at least something to prove. Otherwise, the work wouldn't all be worth it. That said, some guys have more to prove than others.
These are the guys with the most to prove on their respective teams.
Next up: Iowa State.
More guys with plenty to prove.
Plenty to prove: QB Sam Richardson
Honestly, I was shocked to hear Jared Barnett announce his transfer in January, electing to play out the final two seasons of his career at Illinois State instead of Iowa State. He had his issues, but even with Richardson's emergence at the end of the season, I still thought Barnett had a great chance to earn some playing time and maybe even start quite a bit over the next two seasons.
Apparently, that wasn't enough. In the process, he laid down a whole lot of pressure on Richardson, who all of a sudden claimed the quarterback reins for the foreseeable future in Ames. He looked like the future in an amazing performance against Kansas, completing 23 of 27 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns, adding 43 rushing yards and a score. After that, though, he really struggled. Inexperience was part of it. Perhaps Kansas simply had no tape and no way to scout Richardson, who was told he would play just before the game by coach Paul Rhoads.
In his two starts following that Kansas game, he was largely ineffective, even though he's got a more refined passing motion than Barnett or the graduated Steele Jantz. He completed less than 50 percent of his passes and left a bitter taste at the end of the season in a blowout loss to Tulsa. Iowa State simply cannot take that famed "next step" beyond scrapping together six wins and going to a middling bowl game without great quarterback play. Rhoads wants more. His players do, too. Richardson's got a lot on his shoulders and a decent talent in Grant Rohach behind him on the depth chart. It's Richardson's team for now, but he's got a lot to prove after a full spring and a fall camp as the team's unquestioned No. 1. It's the first time he's gone through either getting the majority of the first-team reps, but he needs to show improvement. He's not going to have to put up the kind of numbers he did against Kansas every week, and he won't. He just can't put up the kind of numbers he did in the final two games of the season against defenses nowhere close to the best he'll see this year and expect this to be his team for very long.