AMES, Iowa (AP) — The Cyclones know that they will go as far in 2017 as Jacob Park's big right arm can take them.
Iowa State is so confident in Park's potential that it's willing to let backup Joel Lanning play linebacker.
Park, a junior-to-be who assumed the starting role as a sophomore last season despite not arriving until the summer, completed his first offseason workouts as the No. 1 quarterback on Saturday following the Cyclones' annual spring game.
"He's a guy that plays with great confidence, and I really like where Jacob is headed. But he knows, there's no days off," Iowa State coach Matt Campbell said. "Jacob leaves spring practice ... playing as good of football as I've ever seen Jacob Park play."
Iowa State quarterback Jacob Park (10) runs from defender Eyioma Uwazurike, right, during the team's annual NCAA spring football game, Saturday, April 8, 2017, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Park was the rare four-star QB that Iowa State was able to land. BUT IT TOOK A LONG TIME FOR PARK TO WIND UP AS THE TOP GUY IN AMES.
Park, the 2013 Mr. Football in South Carolina and a U.S. Army All-American Game pick that year, turned down offers from Alabama, Florida State, Notre Dame and others to commit to Georgia. Park got lost in the shuffle with the Bulldogs though, and he left for junior college after just one season.
But Park never played for Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in 2015. So when Park got to Iowa State last summer, it had been nearly three years since he had taken a snap in a game.
Iowa State quarterback Jacob Park sits on the bench during his team's annual NCAA college spring football game, Saturday, April 8, 2017, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
The Cyclones seemed to be set at quarterback anyway, with Lanning entrenched as the starter.
But Park's natural ability — and Lanning's inconsistency — forced the coaching staff to find ways to get him on the field.
By midseason Park was the starter, and threw for 264 yards a game in his past five games despite having few of the repetitions typically given to the No. 1 guy.
"It's a lot more pressure. There's a lot more people with microscopes on everything you do. You've just got to start to perfect everything," Park said about entering an offseason as a starter for the first time."In my position, and anybody else that's in a position like me, you realize that you can't really make any mistakes. Not even the smallest ones."
Campbell, sensing an opportunity to improve a weak spot, moved Lanning to linebacker in December.
Lanning has seemingly taken well to the move. He closed spring ball as a starting linebacker — and even returned an interception thrown by Park for a touchdown on Saturday.
"The guy is a great athlete — and I would have never put Joel in a position to fail. Joel is a guy that has elite athletic ability, especially for a big skill player, and he just kept getting better," Campbell said.
The reasons why many of the nation's premier programs wanted Park were evident in 2016.
Park has an electric arm, advanced footwork and an uncanny ability to wiggle his way out of trouble when the pocket folds — a trait especially crucial at a place such as Iowa State, where an injury or two can leave the line in disarray.
The Cyclones also have a lot coming back around Park, with senior wide receiver Allen Lazard and sophomore David Montgomery topping a surprisingly impressive group of skill position players.
Iowa State is hopeful that pairing a more experienced Park with a decent line and half a dozen offensive options can help it break a seven-year bowl drought.
He's focused on "perfecting everything together. I've kind of got my reads down. It's just really about going back through and refining my fundamentals," Park said.