Marchie Murdock makes a catch during Iowa State’s open fall camp practice on Monday, July 31, 2017. (Photo credit: Chad Bassman)
AMES — It isn’t often that an Iowa State football position group creates questions of whether or not there are enough touches to go around.
On paper, Iowa State is loaded at wide receiver entering the 2017 season.
The Cyclones return more than 80 percent of their receiving yards from 2016 and five of the top six pass catchers. The group is clearly headlined by senior Allen Lazard, but Deshaunte Jones, Trever Ryen, Hakeem Butler and Carson Epps, plus a few others, build a receiving corp as deep as most anyone in the Big 12.
“I think we’ve got some really good guys this year,” wide receivers coach Bryan Gasser said after Monday’s practice. “Certainly, having some leadership like Allen Lazard and Trever Ryen, some guys that have been staples in the offense the last couple years helps. Then guys like Marchie Murdock, whose emerged tremendously during this offseason, really found a niche in what we’re doing, then guys like Matt Eaton and Hakeem Butler. Hakeem, we obviously saw last season some flashes of greatness out of him and I think certainly he’s continued to elevate his game. Then Deshaunte (Jones) kind of in the mix still there with Trever Ryen. Some young guys that are starting to step up, Jalen Martin and Landen Akers, who both redshirted for us last year are competing and really giving us some quality reps and even Tarique Milton, who came in this fall and summer, is going out there and kind of making some big plays down the field for us.”
The players Gasser listed give the Cyclones more than 10 different receivers who have the potential to make an impact on the team this season. The returning players would have been enough to be a pretty solid unit, but adding newcomers like Eaton, Martin, Milton and Akers make the group scary.
*** Gasser on JUCO transfer Matt Eaton
“He was limited throughout the spring, limited for part of the summer. I would say the middle part of June, Matt was cleared and back to 100 percent and really hasn’t missed a beat all fall camp. He’s been in every rep,” Gasser said. “He’s a guy who is going out there and repping quite a bit with us and making some big plays. Had a couple really big plays today out at practice. It’s fun watching him because he has some of the size and length like we have with Allen and Hakeem but he’s got great takeoff too and he can really stretch the field and run and those guys are really fun to play with when you talk about their size and takeoff ability.”
*** Gasser on true freshman Tarique Milton
“Tarique’s a young guy. Got here this summer. Hasn’t fully immersed himself in the playbook yet but really had a great first five or six practices,” Gasser said. “Has really gone out and made a bunch of plays. He’s a guy that’s a little bit different than the rest of the room because his strength is his ability to takeoff and stretch the field. He can make some plays down the field. Obviously a guy that we want to get a little bit stronger and maybe put a little bit of weight on him going into the season but we’ll see. Might be a guy that can help us in the return game. Kick return, punt return and certainly a guy if you’re looking for big plays can do that for you.”
*** Deshaunte Jones on the difference between this offseason and last
“I’m a lot more focused and I’m a lot more comfortable,” Jones said. “Being a returning (sophomore) I’m able to learn more things quickly, catch on to things.”
*** Hakeem Butler on his progress during the offseason
“Just coming in every day ready to work,” Butler said. “I think I would say this offense was pretty big for me. Getting stronger, gaining weight and just getting faster overall. I’m 220 now up from 205 last year. That’s a big thing for me. Just coming in ready to work. The consistency thing was a big thing for me because I didn’t see as much time as I wanted to. I knew why because I wasn’t as consistent as I should have been.”