DALLAS -- When you look around the Big 12, it doesn’t take long before you get to the end of the list of experienced returning starters at quarterback.
TCU’s Trevone Boykin leads the line. Beyond that, there aren’t many names that come up before Iowa State’s Sam B. Richardson rises to the forefront. In fact, only Boykin’s 28 career starts sit ahead of Richardson’s 21 career starts entering the season
That experience is one reason the Cyclones and Paul Rhoads believe the fifth-year senior is the man who can lead the offense to success in 2015.
“Through five years, I’ve seen enough to know he’s exactly that,” Rhoads said. “I’ve seen him evolve from a ‘green behind the ears’ true freshman to a 'not afraid to talk to the team' redshirt senior. He’s more than capable of leading us to success.”
During those 21 starts there have been glimpses that Richardson has the potential to be a game-changing signal-caller. As a redshirt freshman against Kansas, he came off the bench to connect on 23 of 27 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-23 win in 2012.
“His best game is probably as a redshirt freshman, coming off the bench against Kansas,” Rhoads said. “His completion percentage, touchdown, he was lights-out. There are nights like that when you can’t miss the basket, can’t miss the green, can’t miss the receivers' hands.”
Last season, he proved to be a handful for Texas. He accounted for 381 yards and four touchdowns in a last-second, 48-45 loss to the Longhorns. It was a game that gave the senior plenty of confidence despite walking off the field without a victory.
“Obviously, walking off the field was terrible, but as an offense, we saw adversity throughout the season as an offense and we responded the best way we could. It grew us as an offense,” Richardson said. “It showed me I can make the plays when they’re in front of me and that I can respond like we did in that game. I threw two picks and we came back and had explosive plays.”
It’s a game he will look back upon to help push him to greater heights.
“It definitely built my confidence as a player in an environment like that, an environment with so much history against a team I grew up watching, that everyone watches, to go into a stadium like that and perform like we did as an offense,” Richardson said. “But, at the end of the day, you’ve got to get the wins.”
And to get wins, the Florida native will have to be more consistent, mimicking his performances against Kansas in 2012 and Texas in 2014 more often during his final season in Ames, Iowa.
“More days like that, we have the opportunity to see [bigger things], with the supporting cast carrying their weight, too,” Rhoads said.