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Jaylin Noel poised to step into new role as Iowa State’s top receiver
All-American Xavier Hutchinson left a lasting legacy for Noel and several other younger receivers to augment this season and beyond.
AMES — Jaylin Noel’s bigger, faster and smarter. He’s also seamlessly stepped into a leadership role as an Iowa State junior.
Because the Cyclones' top returning wide receiver has put in the work — and learned from some of the best.
“Guys like (former standouts) Xavier Hutchinson, Anthony Johnson and Brock Purdy,” said Noel, who layered 11 pounds of muscle onto his lithe 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame in the offseason. “So I’m making everybody feel like they’re a part of the team and nobody’s left behind.
“Just leading by example kind of helped me grow as a leader and just continuing to do the right thing so the young guys know when it’s their time to lead, that I left a good example of that.”
Hutchinson — an All-American and almost-certain NFL Draft pick next month — led the nation in receptions per game (8.9) last season and became the Cyclones’ all-time leader in catches with 254. And while he’s moving on, he also left a lasting legacy for Noel and several other younger receivers to augment this season and beyond.
“I've learned a lot of things (from him),” said Noel, whose 60 receptions last season tied for fourth in the Big 12. “The first thing is consistency. He was a guy that came into practice every day and practiced the same way every time. And then just his physicality and tenaciousness on the field — and being relentless as a blocker and a route runner; just going at the defense nonstop, making them tired.
“It kind of gets them in a mindset that they don't want to compete no more. So just being relentless was one of the big things I learned from ‘X.’”
Noel, a junior, and senior Dimitri Stanley are ISU’s only returning receivers who caught more than four passes last season. So they’ll be looked to for peak production as well as leadership while several young, but talented players vie for expanded roles in the offense.
The Cyclones also added Jayden Higgins, a 6-4, 215-pound transfer from Eastern Kentucky, to help fill the void left by the departure of Hutchinson.
“He just brings a different element to that room with his size and he can really run, and has a big catch radius out there, as well,” said first-year ISU receivers coach Noah Pauley. “So we’re just going to push him to see how much he can (contribute) early.”
Noel’s pushing to be more involved in the offense — and not just from the slot. Pauley said the staff has lined him up at the “Z” spot at times this spring and he’s performed well both vertically and laterally.
“I think the next step in his football game is consistency, as well,” Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell said. “His ability to make that catch, to make that play. I think there were times last year where we felt Jalen wanted to make the play so badly that fundamentally he might have been a hair off on a couple of plays.
“But Jalen’s made huge plays for us. He’s got all the tools and athleticism. It’s not (about) maturity or growth factor for him. He’s a grown man. He knows how to play the game. He practices like a pro already.”
And Noel passes that on, hoping his example can spark widespread growth and help ISU rebound from its first losing season since 2016.
“He’s a guy that I have truly leaned on in that room,” Pauley said.