Iowa State Cyclones

Defending Hakeem Butler a tall task for Iowa State opponents

6-foot-6 receiver opens up Cyclones' passing game, free up other weapons

Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler (18) runs the ball after a catch ahead of Oklahoma’s Tre Norwood (right) on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Scott Morgan/Freelance)
Iowa State’s Hakeem Butler (18) runs the ball after a catch ahead of Oklahoma’s Tre Norwood (right) on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Scott Morgan/Freelance)
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AMES — Iowa State receiver Hakeem Butler got all the headlines Saturday and Sunday when he caught five passes for 174 yards and two touchdowns against No. 5 Oklahoma.

Earlier this week at his weekly press conference, Akron (2-0, 0-0 MAC) coach Terry Bowden said if Oklahoma didn’t have a defensive back that could cover the 6-foot-6 Butler, he’s not sure his team does, either.

“We’re going to have a really tough task on our hands because our tallest corner is 6-foot,” Bowden said.

Campbell knows opposing coaches have to game plan for Butler.

“Hakeem gives us the ability to win one-on-one in a lot of different ways,” Campbell said. “So, I think once you’re able to consistently show what you can do, at least what Hakeem was able to do last week, I think it certainly forces defenses to at least have to recognize his ability. When you do that, schematically, you can certainly open up different things in both the pass game and the run game, but I’m anxious to watch what that looks like and feels like.”

One of the other options in the pass game is 6-foot-4 Matt Eaton. Eaton had four catches for 42 yards against Oklahoma.

While the numbers aren’t eye-popping, he’s sure-handed and he proved that against Oklahoma, reaching back for a throw that was behind him and coming down with the ball to convert a third down.

“With as well as Hakeem has played, Matt in the last two weeks has done some phenomenal things,” Campbell said. “I know I said this when Matt signed here, that he’s got No. 1 receiver-type mentality. And Matt does bring that to the table. He’s a guy that if the attention’s going the other way all of a sudden, he’s a guy that can get open. He’s going catch the football and he can do things with the ball as well."

Eaton downplayed his catch against Oklahoma.

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“That’s just expected,” Eaton said. “He throws the ball to us and we try to make our play. That’s what we’re on the field to do — catch the ball and make plays. I feel like our group has done a great job of that and we need to continue to get better and try to make more plays for our offense.”

Iowa State quarterback Zeb Noland appreciates what his receivers can do and their different abilities. Butler can obviously take the top off a defense, Eaton is sure-handed, Deshaunte Jones can make guys miss, Tarique Milton has speed from the slot and Landen Akers has speed on the outside.

“I know Hakeem had all the yards, but you take the small, little catches too, like Tarique’s diving catch over on the left side,” Noland said. “That’s a heck of a catch. You have to prepare for all four or five of them — however many play.”

Against Oklahoma, eight Cyclones caught passes.

Bowden, and other teams the Cyclones (0-2, 0-1 Big 12) will face, need to focus on and game plan for Butler, but they can’t forget about the other weapons, either.

“Yeah, we’re really fortunate and it’s one of those things that I think is going to be a huge asset for us going forward, is taking what the defense gives us,” Campbell said. “If you said, ‘Where was your greatest growth from week one to week two offensively?’ it’s really simple. We took what the defense gave us.”

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