Iowa State’s receiving room going through spring with new coach & new faces

Iowa State is just three practices into its 2023 spring football period, and while its impossible to take away any certainties from it, new wide receivers coach Noah Pauley likes what he’s seeing so far.

Pauley comes to Iowa State from North Dakota State, where he was on staff since the 2019 season. The spring period has been made of him getting his first impressions of the position group on the field.

“It’s been one of the fun things about this process so far – being the new guy and really giving everyone a blank slate when they come in,” Pauley said. “You can always take the feedback from Coach Campbell and Coach Scheelhaase, and the guys that have been here offensively, but (it’s good) for me to form my own opinions on guys.”

The top returner for the Cyclones this season comes in Jaylin Noel, who secured 60 catches for 572 yards and three touchdowns a season ago.

Noel took a large step between his freshman and sophomore seasons, adding 22 catches to his total and doubling his yards per game average.

Pauley hopes to keep pushing the junior wideout in the same direction, despite the extra pressure of being the top option a year after losing star pass catcher Xavier Hutchinson.

“To be the guy when you lose a guy like Xavier, that had 107 catches, I mean that’s a lot to do,” Pauley said. “One thing we’re going to push him to do is continue to learn multiple spots. He’s been a great guy in the slot, but I think he could be a guy that can play out in the Z receiver spot and be a little position flexible. Just the way that he runs, he can put a little more pressure on DB’s.”

Throw in the added positions to learn and it becomes a taller feat, but this staff believes in Noel.

“Then you go to the next step, in the return game, and just continuing to get him more comfortable with more reps out there,” Pauley said.

Iowa State will also see a pair of veteran receivers that made their way to Ames through the transfer portal.

Dimitri Stanley will enter his second year in the program after appearing in 11 games and securing 33 catches for 420 yards and a score last season.

Between Stanley and new Eastern Kentucky transfer Jayden Higgins, the Cyclones have some sort of a foundation to their room at the position.

“I’ve pushed Jayden ever since I got here and he was here,” Pauley said. “He’s a kid where, you look out there and he’s got the size. He’s 6-foot-4, probably around 210 right now that just brings a different element to that room right now. We’re just going to push him to see how much he can handle early.”

The Duluth, Minn. native in Pauley mentioned a trio of young route runners that impressed him thus far this spring, too.

Greg Gaines, who enters his second year in Ames, will be one fans take notice of.

“Overall it’s been a fun group, there’s a lot of young talent. Greg has done a great job so far,” Pauley said. “You can just tell from watching stuff from last year what he’s taking into the spring season – he’s really putting it all together and being a guy that I hope we can lean on moving forward.”

On top of Gaines, Pauley brought up two players who enrolled early from the 2023 recruiting class.

“There’s been a bunch of young guys that have done well, even the two guys that came in at semester in Kai Black and Beni Ngoyi,” Pauley said. “For guys that have been here for two months, they’ve done a great job of just getting out there, learning the system, and doing as much as they can to be prepared when they step on the field.

According to Pauley, Black was 213 pounds when he arrived on campus and is now weighing in at 222.

“The way that his body is maturing, he certainly looks like he’s been here for a few years,” Pauley said.

There’s no easy way to replace a talent like Hutchinson, but there’s no shortage of players available to do it with this season in Ames.