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Off-the-field work showing up for Cyclones' Deshaunte Jones

College football: Iowa State receiver hoping to regain freshman form in 2018

Iowa State’s Deshaunte Jones (8) and Chase Allen (11) celebrate a touchdown by Jones against South Dakota State in the first quarter Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Scott Morgan/Freelance)
Iowa State’s Deshaunte Jones (8) and Chase Allen (11) celebrate a touchdown by Jones against South Dakota State in the first quarter Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames. (Scott Morgan/Freelance)

AMES — In fall camp, Iowa State wide receiver Deshaunte Jones was watching film from his freshman and sophomore seasons.

And he noticed something.

He was moving with more fluidity during fall camp than he was on the film from his first two seasons. He proved that in the South Dakota State “game” on Saturday when he reeled off a 55-yard touchdown pass where he evaded two defenders.

Jones revamped his diet and converted some bad weight into good weight.

“One thing I was focused on more was eating healthier and looking up stuff to eat,” Jones said. “I continued to track what I was eating and that helped in the long run and it made me feel a lot better when I was playing out on the field.”

As a true freshman in 2016, Jones was Iowa State’s second leading receiver catching 37 passes for 536 yards and six touchdowns. He was statically the best freshman receiver in the Big 12 and was an honorable mention freshman All-American.

But as a sophomore, his production plummeted.

He caught 28 passes for 273 yards and no touchdowns. He was the sixth leading receiver on the team behind running back David Montgomery.

“Freshman year, I did really well,” Jones said. “Then sophomore year, my stats kind of dropped a little bit. It’s not a knock to the coaches or the players — our offense was a lot better. I just embraced my role with whatever I could do to help the team. It didn’t matter if I was in the game or whatever, I just focused on helping the team.”

It’s not completely Jones’ fault his numbers dropped. Football is played with just one ball and Iowa State had weapons like Allen Lazard, Trever Ryen, Marchie Murdock, Hakeem Butler and Montgomery.

Now that Lazard, Ryen and Murdock have graduated, Jones has more opportunities again.

On that same token, Jones isn’t exonerated.

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“I think if you were to ask Deshaunte, he would tell you a lot about his physical growth,” Campbell said. “He’s stronger and faster than he’s ever been. He’s kind of worked through that from his freshman year through his sophomore year of gaining weight, but was it the right weight? How do we improve your speed? All of those kinds of things.”

Campbell approved of the job the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Jones did refining his physical tools.

“I think we hit a home run with it, really,” Campbell said. “I think his diet was maybe the biggest thing he attacked in the offseason. I think that had a big impact on him. This might be the fastest and strongest I’ve seen Deshaunte. He looks like a different football player today than what he did even last year. I don’t think that’s a discredit to his work ethic, but I think it was diet, strength and condition all coming together as one. He looks like a true third-year football player.”

Iowa State quarterback Kyle Kempt noticed a different Jones during fall camp, too.

“In fall camp, I really thought he stood out,” Kempt said. “At times, against our defense, it can be hard to get it to those inside receivers, but throughout the course of camp, he hit a point where he was getting a lot of balls thrown to him. His ability that he has when he has the ball in his hands, I think, is as good as anyone on our team.”

Jones is listed as an “OR” on the depth chart with redshirt freshman Tarique Milton. Jones is the stronger and shiftier of the two, and Milton has burner-type speed that can blow the top off defenses.

Receivers coach Bryan Gasser said Jones is a horizontal receiver, which was evident last Saturday when Jones caught the bubble screen and ran 55 yards with the ball in hand. Milton, on the other hand, is a vertical receiver. Campbell and the offense wants to use him to stretch the defense vertically.

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