AMES — Iowa State’s two best offensive games of the season came with speedy and shifty slot receiver Jarvis West mostly on the shelf.
This week he’s expected to be at or near 100 percent health, which should inject yet more high-octane fuel into an offense that’s hitting on all cylinders after sputtering early in the season.
“I would have rated him at full speed (during Sunday’s practice),” said Cyclone coach Paul Rhoads, whose team faces No. 19 Oklahoma in Saturday’s 11 a.m. Big 12 game at Jack Trice Stadium. “Much different than he was going into the Texas game and that whole week of preparation. Nothing to hold him back.”
West — a 5-7, 171-pound senior who averaged five catches per game and played a part in three touchdowns in the first four games — sustained a significant left foot injury in the Oklahoma State loss.
He sat out the following week as ISU (2-5, 0-4) rolled up 37 points while beating Toledo and tried to return nine days ago in the 48-45 loss to the Longhorns, but suffered another setback early in the game.
Time, apparently, has finally fully healed what earlier rehabilitation measures such as trying different shoes couldn’t for West — and the Cyclones’ rapidly-growing offense should be better because of it.
“Another playmaker and a playmaker in maybe a different variation,” Rhoads said. “Some of the things that we do with Jarvis doesn’t involve the vertical passing game. it involves the horizontal passing game more. He’s a run threat. He’s a passing threat. And he’s a guy that we can get the ball quickly to and make a team respond east and west to us, moreso than with some of the others guys that we’ve had in the lineup.”
West’s absence put more pressure on ISU quarterback Sam Richardson and his other receivers and they’ve responded with career-crowning efforts.
*Richardson set a school record for completions in a game with 37 in the Toledo win and has thrown for 696 yards the past two weeks.
*Freshman receiver Allen Lazard set personal bests in catches (eight) and receiving yards (96) against the Rockets, while sophomore wideout D’Vario Montgomery posted his first career 100-yard receiving game at Texas and matched a personal benchmark with nine catches.
*Tight end E.J. Bibbs has been steady all along, totaling six touchdown receptions— three off tying the single-season record.
*Even West’s green replacement, freshman receiver Jauan Wesley, achieved career highs in catches (three) and yards (47) in the loss to the Longhorns.
So why the uptick in production at the receiver position in West’s absence?
Better communication has been key. Lazard, Montgomery and Wesley had never taken a snap for the Cyclones until this season. Their deeper understanding of offensive coordinator Mark Mangino’s system — and their respective roles in it — also explains how the offense has hit stride even as West has struggled to do so himself because of the achy foot.
“All of us understand where we’re supposed to be, how fast we’re supposed to get there and what we need to do to get there,” Montgomery said. “So I would say communication between all of us is (going) very well.”
That won’t change now that West can make sharp cuts and big contributions again.
A potent offense simply becomes more dangerous — on paper, at least.
“A lot,” Montgomery said when asked what West means to the offense. “He’s a guy that brings a lot of speed and quickness.”
COUSIN OUT: Rhoads said defensive tackle Devlyn Cousin (elbow) is the only player he’d consider likely to be out for the Oklahoma game, but he could be back this season. “They’re going take it day by day and just see how much he can tolerate and how fast we can bring him along,” Rhoads said. “He’s the only one I would rule out right now.”