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Iowa State’s Zeb Noland, Kyle Kempft vying for backup quarterback duties

Aug 21, 2017

By Dylan Montz, Gazette correspondent


AMES — There aren’t questions about who will start at quarterback for the Iowa State football team in 2017.

Jacob Park became the primary quarterback in the final five games last season and with Joel Lanning moving to start at middle linebacker, there isn’t a doubt Park will be the guy when Iowa State kicks off its season against Northern Iowa on Sept. 2.

The unknown lies with the backup quarterback situation, specifically between two guys at the opposite ends of their careers. Redshirt freshman Zeb Noland and fifth-year senior Kyle Kempt entered the fall in a “wide open” competition — true freshman Devon Moore tore his ACL midway through fall camp.

“I think it’s absolutely critical to our success having that guy that’s No. 2,” Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell said. “I think the nice thing is we feel really confident in those two guys.”

Iowa State hasn’t had a quarterback start every game in a season since Austen Arnaud in 2008. And he shared duties with Phillip Bates the first four games. A capable backup is crucial for any team, but history shows the Cyclones have relied on those guys heavily in recent years.

Jerome Tiller filled in for Arnaud on occasion in 2009 and 2010. Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz split time from 2011-12 and Sam Richardson and Grant Rohach both got starts from 2013-14.

Lanning saw time as a signal caller in 2015 and 2016, and even though Park has solidified himself as the starter, Noland and Kempt need to be ready.

Noland, a 6-foot-2 and 222-pound Watkinsville, Ga., native, tore his ACL in fall camp last season and spent the next nine months rehabbing and mentally recovering. It gave him time to absorb the mental side of the game, but dealing with injuries isn’t without some tough patches.

“It’s been rough on him seeing him struggle a little bit at times,” Park said. “But he comes in with a positive attitude every day, he asks good questions and you can really tell he wants to get better.”

He was limited in the spring but cleared to go fully this summer. And once he got past the mental hurdles in July, Noland hasn’t given thought to his knee.

“From the first day out there, I kind of rolled out of the pocket and took off a little bit,” Noland said. “I was surprising myself. I was just thankful that I could roll out and not feel any pain.”

Noland said his knee would lock at times while doing running drills in the summer, and he would favor it slightly, but any uncertainty went away once fall camp began. Noland said the ACL tear gave him a new perspective on how to deal with adversity, both personal and team-wise.

“Really everything is picking up steam for him, but he was incredibly limited in the spring, justifiably, and has been working as hard in the training room as he has been in our classroom and as he has been on the field,” quarterbacks coach Jim Hofher said. “So he’s coming along probably at the right kind of pace.”

Kempt, a 6-foot-5 and 210-pound Massillon, Ohio, native, has had a journeyman college career. He was on scholarship two years at Oregon State, but didn’t see action before transferring to Hutchinson Community College for a year.

After walking on at Iowa State, Kempt spent much of his time with the scout team, but did play in two games. He was 2-of-2 passing for 15 yards and had one rush for seven yards last fall.

No public decisions have been made on who will take backup reps should the need arise, but the Cyclones will have a deep roster to turn toward. Noland, Kempt and even Lanning — who has practiced with offense and defense — all are viable options.

“(The competition with Noland has) been great,” Kempt said. “Great for both of us. Great for the team, honestly, that we’ve got two guys really competing for that job. It just makes both of us better so it’s been awesome for both of us.”

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