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AMES — Xavier Hutchinson is explosive, reliable and ambitious.
But Iowa State’s leading returning wide receiver wants to add another layer or two to his already wide-ranging repertoire.
“Last year when we had Brock (Purdy), we had Greg (Eisworth), we had Mike Rose, I kind of took a backseat to leadership,” Hutchinson said after Friday night’s spring practice at Ames High School. “I kind of just tried to lead by actions. Those guys spoke about how to work, how to do everything. That’s what’s changed for me. Now I’m in the position where I have to speak more. I have to be the guy who’s talking the talk and walking the walk.”
Usually, the third-year Cyclone and junior college transfer is running — and at a rapid pace.
Hutchinson fell just 13 yards short of 1,000 receiving yards last season and sprinkled in five touchdown catches. The Jacksonville, Fla., native already ranks in the top 10 all-time at ISU in receptions (147) and receiving yards (1,758). He’ll likely continue to pile up big numbers, but this time they’ll flow from a different arm.
Former backup quarterback Hunter Dekkers is the clear leader to inherit Purdy’s starting role behind center and Hutchinson said the 6-foot-3, 235-pound play-caller should excel in leading the offense.
“There’s not a (throw) that he can’t make,” Hutchinson said. “You just see in how he walks — he walks like he’s a quarterback. He has that superstar in him and right now the only thing we’re really trying to do is get on the same page at the same time. That takes time and it takes work ethic, but I wouldn’t rather go through it with anyone else but Hunter.”
Dekkers performed well in spot duty the past two seasons, completing 25 of 43 passes for three touchdowns and one interception. As his role expands, so does his confidence, and Purdy, the owner of 31 school records, helped groom him for his potential “superstar” status.
“(I’m) going into my third year, so, yeah, I have a very good grasp of this offense,” Dekkers said.
But is he ready for the spotlight Purdy operated under while helping ISU post a program-record 30 wins in his 47 career starts? That remains to be seen, of course, but Dekkers already embodies the even-keel stoicism Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell seeks to instill in his players.
“The biggest thing I want to see is growth,” Campbell said. “Obviously, when you’ve got a guy like Hunter that’s had game proof that he can go in and have success, you certainly want to see where he grows.”
So does Hutchinson, who chose to come back for one more season at ISU instead of declaring for the NFL Draft. He’s not just a statistical leader now. He’s among several key seniors, including linebacker O’Rien Vance, who will help determine whether the program remains on strong footing or takes a step back.
“When you’ve got (defensive end) Will McDonald,” Campbell said. “And when you’ve got Xavier Hutchinson, and when your best players are your best practice players, it teaches the values of every young man that comes into your program what the standard is.
“I think for us that’s what’s really fun about this group. Man, you see (defensive tackle) Isaiah Lee, (center) Trevor Downing — those guys are playing darn good football right now. And when the best players play that way every single day, then everybody rises to the occasion.”
Iowa State football quick hits
- Backup running back Deon Silas, Campbell said, will miss the rest of spring ball because of injury.
“We know we’ll get him back full-go probably by the end of spring,” Campbell added.
- Friday marked the first of three open practices the Cyclones will conduct. ISU will also practice before the public in Gilbert on April 8, and at Des Moines East on April 15.
“I think changing the environments, putting the pads on, riding on the bus, getting out of our comfort zone is really big for this group,” Campbell said.