Welcome to our 2023 position previews, where we will spend the last few weeks before kickoff going over each position group for the 2023 team, this week will be the offense, and next week will be the defense. Today, it’s the wide-outs.
Iowa State lost one of the most prolific pass catchers in school history with Xavier Hutchinson gone. The All Big 12 wideout was picked in the 6th round of this pass draft and is fighting for a roster spot out in Houston. X leaves about as big of a hole as possible in this offense as he was the go to man in just about every situation last year. Iowa State is also losing 6’6” pass catcher Sean Shaw, who is using his Covid year at Texas State, and Darren Wilson, who graduated. Iowa State is really going to miss Hutchinson. With no disrespect to the other two, their production will not be hard to replace for the new guys.
Iowa State is bringing in three freshman WRs. Kai Black, Beni Ngoyi, and Michael Parkes in their 2023 recruiting class along with Jayden Higgins who is an Eastern Kentucky transfer. Higgins has been seen as the big get this off season as we continue to hear fantastic things about him through camp. He’s currently the lead candidate to step up for this team to try and replicate Hutchinson's production from a year ago.
These new guys are going to have a real chance to get some early playing time, especially true freshman Beni Ngoyi. Ngoyi’s measurables are off the charts. He run’s a 4.4 40, and has a 42 inch vertical. If he can combined these numbers with on the field results he will have his shot to play early as a cyclone.
Jayden Higgins Put up 58 receptions for 757 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was undoubtably the best Receiver on Eastern Kentucky last year and with other weapons around him this year to take a little of the attention off of him he should have a chance to match if not pass these marks from last year. The Junior has some major expectations in Ames this fall.
Leader Of The Pack
I think this category has a real chance to be a 2 man show. You have transfer Jayden Higgins coming in who I’ve talked plenty about already, but also you have returning Junior (that seems insane to say I feel like he got here yesterday) Jaylin Noel. Noel has been playing since his true freshman year and has shown some major flashes but has never put it together enough to be a true WR1. Last year he had 60 receptions, 572 yards, and 3 TDs. The major issue with Noel last year was his 11% drop rate, if he is going to step up and be competing for the WR1 role on this team that percentage is going to have to drop significantly. Can he make the strides to be the go to guy? I certainly think its possible, but right now my money is on Higgins to lead the show.
“Backups” is not a very definitive term here. Iowa State has a bunch of guys that have the chance to earn reps this year and get some major targets. I know this says “Backups” but I expect Dimitri Stanley to start at the 3rd WR position this year. He’s a senior this year after starting his career at Colorado and transferring in last year. He put up 33 receptions, 420 yards, and 1 TD. Stanley who is definitely the burner of the guys getting reps showed some real flashes last year, but he too struggled with drops and getting open at times last year. This is a guy I’d like to see have more plays designed for him so he can really showcase his speed but to earn those opportunities I think he will have to show more on natural passing downs. Another guy we have seen some but I hope to see more this year is redshirt Junior Aiden Bitter. This guy is hands down the best route runner in this position room and made some fantastic catches in the Iowa game to give us a few much needed 3rd down conversions. I’d be absolutely shocked if this guy doesn’t get more opportunity to showcase his absurd route running this fall.
Another guy I’m excited to see get some opportunity is Redshirt Freshman Jason Essex. He’s a name we’ve consistently heard since he arrived on campus and I think this year we get to see him showcase his ability on the field. He definitely fits the mold of the prototypical Matt Campbell Iowa State WR standing at 6’2 215 and is built like a TE with the speed of a WR. Is this another big body WR we see flourish under Campbell and Co? he definitely has the potential now we just have to see if it translates to the Gridiron.