Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State finding answers at receiver to replace Hakeem Butler

La'Michael Pettway, Tarique Milton or Deshaunte Jones could develop into go-to guy

Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver La'Michael Pettway (7) celebrates his touchdown after hauling in a pass from Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Deshaunte Jones (not shown) during the first quarter of their college football game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver La'Michael Pettway (7) celebrates his touchdown after hauling in a pass from Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Deshaunte Jones (not shown) during the first quarter of their college football game against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames, Iowa on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

AMES — Before the 2019 season, figuring out how to replace Hakeem Butler was a top priority for Iowa State Coach Matt Campbell.

While the Cyclones still haven’t found a go-to red-zone threat they are finding answers in terms of replacing Butler’s other areas of production.

When Iowa State (1-1) hosts Louisiana-Monroe (1-1) Saturday at Jack Trice Stadium at 11 a.m., the coaching staff hopes to solidify the receiver position a little bit more.

La’Michael Pettway could be part of the solution after showing flashes with two touchdown catches in the red zone against Northern Iowa.

“I’m a lot more confident now than I was two weeks ago at the receiver position,” Campbell said. “La’Michael, in the first two games, has really stepped in and had a great veteran presence. He’s played with great consistency. He’s competed how we expect an outside receiver to compete here. Tarique (Milton) really made a jump between game one and game two. Then Deshaunte (Jones) has been outstanding.”

Campbell also mentioned former Cedar Rapids Washington prep Landen Akers as well as Joseph Scates as receivers who continue to do well in practice but have yet to have their own breakout game. Akers has one catch this season for 21 yards and Scates, a freshman, has yet to make his first career reception.

By and large, Pettway and Jones were known commodities for Campbell. Pettway transferred from Arkansas after being the Razorbacks’ leading receiver with 30 receptions for 499 yards and four touchdowns. He already has three touchdowns in two games at Iowa State.

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Jones has shown he’s a difference maker since his true freshman season, when he caught 37 passes for 536 yards and six touchdowns. In his career, he’s caught 126 passes for 1,332 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Milton showed flashes last year, catching 34 passes for 417 yards and one touchdown. But Campbell needed to see growth from Milton, and he has.

“Tarique had 30-some catches last year and had some big catches in some big moments,” Campbell said. “He’s what I usually see from young players in our program. In year one, they usually get noticed. Then in year two, you see that transformation start to occur. What was really fun for me is watch what he did in spring practice and the relationship that he and (quarterback) Brock (Purdy) really started to form.

“I really did feel Tarique had an opportunity to have a big-time breakout year because of the chemistry between Brock and he.”

Milton said he actually started forming that relationship with Purdy right after the Alamo Bowl in December 2018. The two would go into the practice facility and work on their routes and timing during the offseason.

“Then that continued into the summer because we wanted to get our timing right because we knew that connection was going to be important,” Milton said.

In last week’s 18-17 loss to Iowa, Milton had a breakout game with eight catches for 144 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown came on a 73-yard play in which he found himself wide open in the middle of the field, outrunning the Hawkeye secondary.

The most catches he had in a game last season as a freshman was seven for 89 yards against Texas Tech.

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“Tarique can separate,” Campbell said. “One of the things you appreciate about Tarique is his route running on top of that. When you look at the elite receivers, what do they have the ability to do? They can separate at the top of their route and they can separate in terms of cushion.

“Tarique can do all those things. You saw that in its finest form on Saturday night. Then piggyback that with his big play.”

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