AMES — Matt Campbell didn’t inherit much when he took over as Iowa State’s football coach four years ago. But he has had consistently good production from his receivers.
It started with Allen Lazard and then Hakeem Butler. Last season, Deshaunte Jones, LaMichael Pettway and Tarique Milton all produced for the Cyclones.
In previous seasons, Iowa State relied heavily on one guy, but last season, the Cyclones were able to spread the wealth.
“That receiver group played the most consistent they have since we’ve been here,” Campbell said. “They might not have been as talented, but they were consistent. That shows you how special (ISU receivers coach) Nate Scheelhaase is as a teacher when he’s coaching fundamentals.”
Jones and Pettway graduated and Iowa State needs multiple receivers to step up if it’s going to get another solid season of production.
Milton proved to be a big-play threat, averaging 20.6 yards per reception. Milton’s issue was disappearing for games at a time. Against Oklahoma State he had just one catch for 14 yards and against Kansas he had zero receptions.
Campbell has a plan to hopefully get more consistent production from Milton, who played in the slot as a freshman and will be a junior next season.
“I do think you see Tarique moving back inside,” Campbell said. “Landen Akers can play outside and inside for us, so that versatility is helpful.”
Sean Shaw Jr. was a young player who had good moments for Iowa State as a freshman last season. He had 15 catches for 231 yards but his most impressive production came in the red zone. The 6-foot-6 receiver had five touchdowns.
Now that he has a year of experience under his belt, he could be poised for a big sophomore season.
Joseph Scates didn’t see much time on the field during his freshman campaign but he’s one to watch as a sophomore. The 6-2 Scates always gets rave reviews from Campbell and Scheelhaase for his talent. Now he just needs to have that talent translate to on-field production.
One person who hasn’t even seen the practice field, but Campbell has high hopes for, is junior college transfer Xavier Hutchinson.
“I’ll be really honest with you, I don’t know if there’s a better wide receiver in the country right now that’s coming into a college football program than what Xavier is,” Campbell said. “If you go watch the video tape of his sophomore year at Blinn, it’s as good as any video tape I’ve ever seen of a wide receiver. I give him and his family a lot of credit for staying loyal to us.
“He’s got the size of a Butler and a Lazard but he has the speed and athleticism of some of our really talented skill players. He’s dynamic and he looks like how a No. 1 receiver looks. We’re really anxious to get him here to see where and how he fits into our wide receiver group.”
The Cyclones have to replace some productive players, and they have some unproven pieces, but Campbell has called Scheelhaase one of the best young coaches in America, so it’ll be up to him to make sure the new crop of receivers are ready to produce for Iowa State.