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Could the wide receivers determine the success of Cyclone offense in 2021?

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What can the receiving corps do to elevate ISU football?

Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press

Iowa State football has officially broken through the ice into national relevancy. The Cyclones, after finishing 9-3, have a bullseye on their back in this upcoming 2021 campaign. We know the defense is going to be just fine with Heacock at the helm, so this article is going to focus on our offense, who by the way averaged 32.9 points per game. By absolutely putting the team on their back, All-Americans Breece Hall and Charlie Kolar led the Cyclones to a pretty good offensive showing in the year of hell (not for the football team) that was 2020. How can the Cyclones elevate their offensive skill set, and win a Big 12 Championship?

The key to Iowa State reaching the next level lies within the receiving corps. It’s very apparent that the cyclones lean on one receiver to carry a large majority of the receiving workload. The X-Man himself, Xavier Hutchinson, led the receivers in every game but one in yards through the passing attack. That one game was a victory over TCU in which five different receivers were targeted. Landen Akers led that group with 60 yards through the air. (Way to rep the 319 Landen).

Here is a clip of the X-Man tearing up the OU defense.

What is most startling about the statistics from the receivers is the numbers put up by that group in our three losses. In the first game, and first loss of the year, Purdy completed only 95 yards to the wide outs. Hutchinson had 43 of those 95 yards (45%). In the second loss of the year against Oklahoma State, the receivers accounted for only 68 yards through the air, all of which were reeled in by the X-Man.

In the final loss of the season against Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship, the receivers hauled in a nice chunk of 169 yards of the passing attack. Looking more closely however, 114 of those yards came from Hutchinson, which is 68% of the yards. There is a very common theme in all of our losses: a lack of involvement from the receiving corps.

Here is how many yards our receivers contributed for in wins:

  • TCU - 161 yards
  • Oklahoma - 160 yards
  • Texas Tech - 148 yards
  • Kansas - 221 Yards
  • *Baylor - 37 Yards
  • Kansas State - 225 Yards
  • Texas - 107 Yards
  • West Virginia - 126 Yards
  • *Oregon - 64 Yards

As you can see, when our receivers are more involved in the offense, the offense is much more dynamic and the running backs and tight ends have much more room to operate. Against both Baylor and Oregon, the team leaned fairly heavily on Breece Hall who had 133 yards and 136 yards in each of those games.

Now the question is, who is going to step up in 2021? Looking at the roster, it’s evident that the receiver room has a ton of talent and untapped potential. My first candidate to contribute more, and have a bounceback year is Tarique Milton. Milton only finished the year playing in only six of the 12 games the Cyclones competed in last season. That can make us forget just how effective #1 can be.

Jumping back to 2019, the last time he played at 100%, Tarique Milton had 722 yards receiving, and displayed the speed to take the top off of opposing defenses. If Milton can get healthy, and get back to his 2019 form, the duo of Hutchinson and Milton could be, and should be, lethal for the rest of the conference. Let’s look at some of that top end speed I mentioned.

The next obvious breakout candidate Sean Shaw. Standing at a whopping six foot and six inches tall, Shaw has the build and athleticism to make a real impact on offense this season. After back to back seasons of 200+ receiving yards, Shaw is poised to use his Hakeem Butler-like build to win match ups all over the field. It is just a matter of time before Shaw explodes onto the scene with electric numbers and some electric plays.

The last receiver to be discussed has all of the skills necessary to breakout and be a real contributor for the Cyclones is one I have personally been waiting on for a couple years now. Joe Scates, a four star from Dayton, Ohio, has yet to reach his potential in Cardinal and Gold (and black @hawkfans). We have definitely seen flashes of this young man’s potential, but will he be able to put it all together for 2021?

Some other wide receiver names to keep an eye out for this upcoming season:

  • Darren Wilson
  • Aiden Bitter
  • Darien Porter
  • Jaylin Noel

If the receiving corps can produce at a high level this season, this offense should be lethal. By already having two All-Americans on the offensive side of the ball, Brock Purdy slinging the rock, and a productive wide receiver room, the Cyclones should be well on their path to returning to the Big 12 Championship and possibly winning it. Go State!