AMES - Usually when there's preseason buzz surrounding a player submitting a breakout year, it's a newcomer or youngster.
But for the Iowa State football team, it's fifth-year senior quarterback Austen Arnaud who appears prepared to take a major leap forward for his hometown school.
From head coach Paul Rhoads to his teammates to Arnaud himself, everyone seems to see a more confident, settled quarterback.
T-R PHOTO BY TRAVIS HINES
Iowa State quarterback Austen Arnaud, an Ames native, listens to a reporter’s question during the Cyclones’ annual football media day event on Wednesday at Jack Trice Stadium.
"The word I would use to best describe him right now is poised," said Rhoads during ISU's media day on Wednesday. "He knows he's a better fundamental football player right now. He's not hoping, he knows he's a better fundamental football player. He also knows he understands an offense fully and thoroughly as he enters (the season)."
That confidence comes from spending a second year in offensive coordinator Tom Herman's spread attack, the third scheme Arnaud's learned at ISU. It's confidence that's apparent to Arnaud's roommate of five years and fellow team captain, safety Mike O'Connell.
"I've watched him grow and mature as a quarterback," said O'Connell. "It's tough on a guy when he has to learn three offenses, and I understand that and I've watched in the last six months here in the offseason, I've just seen him settle down.
"And he is really grasping this offense that Coach Herman's trying to run, and he's very comfortable. And I think that's going to show up this year."
Arnaud and the spread offense weren't quick to gel, however.
"The spread offense is a tough offense to learn coming from what I came from with (former offensive coordinator Robert) McFarland," said Arnaud. "Learning that offense was one of the toughest things I've done in my life."
The Ames High School graduate had middling success last season, throwing 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but the number that is proving most significant is his completion percentage of 58.7.
"I think my accuracy has really improved," said Arnaud, who said he hopes to complete better that 65 percent of his passes this season. "That was one thing I really needed to improve on."
That improvement in accuracy is a byproduct of both a tweak in Arnaud's mechanics and his familiarity with Herman's offense.
"I think the person that you see the most comfortable now is Austen Arnaud," said running back Alexander Robinson. "I think you saw that in spring ball, he's a lot more consistent and a lot quicker with his decisions."
After watching his quarterback spend the offseason studying former Big 12 standout signalcallers who ran the spread offense - Kansas' Todd Reesing, Missouri's Chase Daniel and Texas' Colt McCoy - while impressing during spring practice, Rhoads beams with optimism when talking about the prospects of Arnaud's final season in Ames.
"When you have that confidence you're going to deliver the ball, you're going to take off, run," he said. "You're going to get in an offensive lineman's face and tell him how it should be because you have that kind of confidence."
Arnaud may be confident heading into the season, but, by the sounds of things, it's dwarfed by the confidence that Cyclone Nation has in him.