As sophomore Brock Purdy returns to lead the offense for the Cyclones in his second season at quarterback, there are many who are expecting the offensive side of the ball to take a step back.
They have plenty reasons to doubt, with the Cyclones losing David Montgomery — a 1,200 yard rusher last season — and Hakeem Butler to the NFL this offseason. Montgomery and Butler combined for 22 touchdowns last season; losing them will take time to adjust to, according to Purdy and other members of the offense.
However, Purdy and offensive coordinator Tom Manning are not trying to force any members of the offense to be someone they're not, because the production of the offense last season is something you can't just expect, Purdy said.
"This year we have different skillsets than we did last year with [Montgomery and Butler]," Purdy said. "None of us are going to try and be someone else because we are all special for who we are already."
Purdy will have only one returning starter at wide receiver from last season — senior Deshuante Jones — as well as sophomore Tarique Milton. Milton hasn't been with Purdy for a full season, but he believes he will take the next step with ease, even with the odds stacked against him.
"I feel like he is going to take the next step and run with it," Milton said. "He has gained so much confidence from last season."
With a young group of receivers around him, Purdy might have to rely on his legs to make more plays than he was required to last season.
"You know we don't have 'Big No. 18' on the outside anymore, so whatever we can do to use our skills to get the most of this offense, we will do it," Purdy said.
Rushing for 308 yards and five touchdowns last season, Purdy's mobility was a weapon he used frequently on third down and in goal-line situations, but he is not looking to use it every opportunity he gets. He said that he is ready to break out of the pocket and scramble if he needs to, but he'll trust his team to put him a position where doesn't need to think about running.
"I am going to trust in the play calls — the coaches and the guys around me," Purdy said. "I'm not going to go into a game looking to run, but if I need to, I will."
Purdy said his competitive nature makes him excited to "prove himself right" and not prove people wrong when it comes to the level of production and effectiveness in the offense this season.
"We don't listen to anyone outside these walls," Purdy said.
Manning returns from his brief stint in the NFL in 2018 with the Indianapolis Colts, where he was the tight ends coach with Pro-bowler Eric Ebron.
Manning was the offensive coordinator for the Cyclones in the 2016-17 season, when things looked much differently for the Cyclone offense. Last time he was at Iowa State, he had all First team All-Big 12 players in wide receiver Adam Lazard and Montgomery. Now, he will have a second-year quarterback and a young group of receivers and running backs to work with — and to create an offense that helps Purdy grow in year two.
"Our job as an offensive staff this season is to highlight what [Purdy] does best," Manning said. "Obviously the offense will be more efficient if we have guys in spots where they feel comfortable, so we need to do that more than anything numbers-wise."
Senior lineman Julian Good-Jones has been around for four seasons of Iowa State football; he's seen plenty of new quarterbacks and offensive weapons leave and evolve season after season. Good-Jones sees this offense as one of, if not the most, talented the Cyclones have had in a while.
"We have as much talent as we have ever had," Good-Jones said. "Seriously, all the guys in the running back room could start at 90 percent of schools in the nation. I have seen our receivers in practice, and they are going to show up."