116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Iowa State has had some spectacular receivers under Matt Campbell.
Allen Lazard and Hakeem Butler own pretty much every school record, but even players like La’Michael Pettway and Deshaunte Jones had solid careers as Cyclones.
Campbell believes Xavier Hutchinson is the next great.
“He’s certainly not the 6-foot-6 guy, but he’s the guy who has elite precision at the top of his route,” Campbell said of the 6-3 Hutchinson. “He has great hands, can make the traffic catch and he has some qualities that those other guys maybe didn’t have. He has pop and polish at the top of his route.”
Hutchinson was relatively quiet in Iowa State’s first two football games, but against UNLV, he returned to the form he showed at the end of last season when he was the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and caught 64 passes for 771 yards.
He caught 10 passes for 133 yards and two touchdowns in Las Vegas — all career highs.
Many of his yards came after the catch, which is something new for him.
“When I came here, I wasn’t a yards-after-the-catch guy,” Hutchinson said. “I was more of a possession receiver, but it was something I worked on with coach Nate (Scheelhasse).”
That work paid off.
“I just think he’s so explosive,” Campbell said. “His explosion is really seen after the catch. His ability to make somebody miss and then get yards after the catch is special. Of the great receivers we’ve had here, he’s as good as any of them. The yards after the catch is what’s so impressive about what he does.
“He made a big play last week on the first third-and-3 of the game and a conversion goes from a conversion to a 14 or 15-yard gain. You can feel the momentum come off of those kinds of plays.”
Solid special teams
Iowa State’s special teams and players — outside of returner Kene Nwangwu — left a lot to be desired in recent years. And with the departure of Nwangwu to the NFL, the special teams became an unknown.
Kicker Andrew Mevis has turned that unknown into a known commodity.
The Fordham transfer has provided Iowa State with stability at kicker — both in kickoff and field goals.
Mevis hit a 54-yarder against UNLV and a 40-yarder against UNI. He’s provided the Cyclones with a big leg that they’ve sorely lacked in recent years.
“Boy, Andrew has such a huge leg and a lot of confidence in that leg,” Campbell said after the UNLV game “I think those are positives for us. Confidence was a huge thing for our football team today, and I think Andrew certainly gained some of that as well."
Beyond his ability to kick a field goal that’s longer than 40 yards, his ability to put the ball through the end zone on kickoffs already has paid dividends.
“A hidden big play in special teams in the first three weeks was the UNI game when we kicked the field goal to go up six,” Campbell said. “We decided to play defense to win the football game. UNI has an opportunity to field a kick return and a year ago, we would’ve had to face that return, which is always a scary thing. But Andrew kicked it out of the end zone (for a touchback) and we can just play defense.
“There are some dynamics where we haven’t been where we wanted to be previously and we’re a lot closer to being that now. To have specialists you can trust, not just in terms of putting points on the board but in other kicking situations is certainly beneficial.”
Iowa State injury report
Middle linebacker O’Rien Vance still is dealing with a leg injury. After the UNLV game, Campbell said he was day-to-day and reiterated that same message on Tuesday.
A new addition to the injury report is cornerback Datrone Young. Young had a solid start to the season but got banged up against Iowa. Freshman T.J. Tampa took his place against UNLV.
“(Young) was kind of 50-50 in terms of where he was on Thursday, but he still wasn’t right, so we didn’t take him on the trip,” Campbell said. “We’re hoping he’s back out at practice (Tuesday) for our football team.
“But I’ll tell you what, the play of T.J. Tampa in that football game — a couple plays that he makes — T.J.’s a guy when you talk about rising stars in our program, I feel like he’s one of those guys. What he’s done in terms of his length, ability and speed, man I thought he was incredible. We’ll need T.J. and we’ll need Speedy (Young) down the road but how big for us to get T.J. into the game.”