One Iowa State player UL coach Billy Napier didn’t have to watch a minute of film to be sold on was junior quarterback Brock Purdy.
Not only is the 6-1, 212-pound quarterback already on such watch lists as the Davey O’Brien, Manning, Maxwell and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, but Napier was recruiting Purdy even before his three seasons as UL’s coach.
Or at least he tried to.
During Napier’s short tenure at Arizona State, he recruited Purdy, who is from Gilbert, Arizona.
It’s not like Patrick Toney is a new face to the UL Ragin’ Cajuns’ defensive unit.
“I was actually going to watch him practice to evaluate him,” Napier said. “The day before he had an accident in the desert — his throwing hand got stuck in a cactus and he wasn’t able to practice or throw.”
That didn’t stop Napier, though, from following Purdy’s progress since.
“I think Brock’s not only a heck of a quarterback, but a great leader and a young man I’ve got a ton of respect for,” Napier said. “I had an opportunity to get to know Brock when I was at Arizona State. I’ve always admired his game.”
Purdy passed for 3,982 yards with 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions last season after throwing for 2,250 yards with 16 TDs and seven interceptions in 2018.
“I love the kid and love his family,” Napier said. “It’s no surprise to me that he continues to be a very productive player. He not only can throw the ball and makes really good decisions and leads their team, but he’s also a great athlete.
“He can extend plays. He can makes plays in the scramble, and he’s a good runner. He’s a good athlete. You’ve got to plan for his mobility as much as his arm.”
Exactly how different has the preparation for Saturday’s opener been for UL’s coaching staff?
In the past, Napier’s process has included lots of offseason opponent game planning. This year, the Cajuns didn’t know until late August that Iowa State would be the first game and not McNeese State as originally planned.
If the late preparation works, does that mean the process needs to be tweaked?
He was living with his grandmother in his home state of Indiana during his four seasons playing for the Hoosiers.
“I think that’s a great question, and one that I had to think about,” Napier said. “You kind of re-evaluate all the processes you have in place for the spring and the summer and in preseason and you try to take time out of your schedule and allocate. We’re going to have to do that for UAB, and we’re going to have to do that for Central Arkansas.”
Making preparation for Iowa State even more complicated than its unusual 3-3-5 defensive scheme.
“We’re glad it’s the opener,” Napier said. “Anytime a team is unique when you’ve got a normal week to get ready, that’s when it makes it a little bit difficult. The whole key is simulating what’s going to happen in the game at practice. Not only is it unique for the offensive players, but for the defensive players, it’s not like anything they’ve learned in their system.”
With that said, Napier warned against over-analyzing the preparation differences to much this week.
“Don’t make too much of it here,” he said. “It’s another week. Each team has their own little things that make them different. Some weeks are maybe easier than others. That’s just part of the game. That’s part of what we do. We’re going to try to simulate the game for our players in practice, and we’ve got a very specific plan to do that.”
Purdy already owns 21 schools records.
And for the record, Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said UL senior quarterback Levi Lewis “is as talented a quarterback that we’ve seen.”
It’s been an controversial issue in the NFL, and Napier has a few questions about that as well.
Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott has been among the more critical coaches questioning the potential inconsistencies with potential noise piped into NFL stadiums.
At the collegiate level, Napier is asking some of those same questions with the Ragin’ Cajuns’ first two gamesbeing on the road — at No. 23 Iowa State on Saturday and at Georgia State on Sept. 19.
If you don’t believe in reaching for the stars, you might not want to talk to UL junior right tackle Max Mitchell any time soon.
“Just a couple of days ago, I’ve been trying to get to the bottom of that,” Napier said Monday. “Not only for our home environment, for our players and fans — what’s our strategy going to be? But also, you don’t want walk into a beehive here on Saturday and there’s no parameters or no rules.”
So far, there doesn’t appear to be any uniform policy … at least from Napier’s response.
“You may see conferences or even at the NCAA level, there’s going to have to be some parameters I would a imagine about when you can play simulated crowd noise and when you can’t,” Napier said. “If not, it could get a little bit out of control if I was a betting man.
“I do think there needs to be some general guidelines.”
Ready for some football?
Even when it’s your profession, Napier revealed Monday this strange offseason has him bewildered now that the first game week has begun.
“What an incredible offseason it’s been, right?,” Napier said. “I think I probably didn’t get that gut feeling until the last couple of days that we’re getting ready to play ball. It’s been a blur.”
After recognizing UL’s administration and players for the planning and commitment to still be reporting zero positive tests during training camp, Napier said many are in need of watching football these days.
Sure, the offseason was rough.
“We’ve had tons of adversity this offseason,” he said. “I think coach (OL coach D.J.) Looney passing away (heart attack Aug. 1) is probably at the top of that list if you ask a lot of people on our team, because of the significance of his relationship with our staff and players. … the hurricane, the social issues, all of these things add up.
“I think this is going to create a great outlet and a great opportunity for lots of people across the country.”
For UL fans, the game is set to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday on ESPN. The scheduled announcers are: Tom Hart (play-by-play), Mike Golic (analyst) and Cole Cubelic (sideline).