AMES, Iowa – The depth chart shows that Iowa State lost its top four receivers from last season.
Missing are Aaron Horne, Chris Young and Josh Lenz, who combined to catch 108 passes for 1,240 yards and 11 touchdowns a year ago. It was a versatile and balanced group with nobody grabbing more than 39 balls and nobody with fewer than 31 receptions.
Turn the calendar to 2013. Jarvis West returns after pulling in 31 passes for 290 yards last season, Quenton Bundrage made a solid debut a year ago with 20 receptions for 232 yards and Albert Gary caught 18 for 170 yards, but it’s otherwise a largely new group ready to step into the fast-paced life in the Cyclone passing game. Tad Ecby, P.J. Harris, Quan West, Justin Coleman and Dondre Daley are all expected to contribute.
“Daley’s a guy who’s really shined about the last three practices where his strength and size (6-foot-1, 191 pounds) and speed has started to show up, catching balls over the top of defensive backs and really snatching them,” head coach Paul Rhoads noted during Iowa State’s media day.
“He’s a two-deep guy, and if you’re playing two-deep receiver in this offense, you’re on the field quite a significant number of snaps. P.J. Harris needs to come along, as well. We’ve seen his speed and his burst as he’s raced downfield past guys at times, as well. Quan West is another guy that’s probably a little bit behind them as he still continues to gain strength and confidence after ACL surgery.
“Those are guys who as redshirt freshmen are going to be part of that rotation, and the better they play, the better we’ll play as an offense.”
Courtney Messingham, a Waterloo native and Iowa State’s offensive coordinator, likes the options quarterback Sam Richardson will have at his disposal in the pistol offense.
“I believe we have the people there that we need,” he said. “We had four seniors there last year who played a lot of football, and there are some young men who have played but haven’t been the fulltime starters. Now that they have become those starters, they’ve got to make sure they bring their ‘A’ game every Saturday because in our league, you can’t have a down day. If you’re going to be successful, you have to be ready to play when your opportunity comes.”
It helps, Messingham added, that the eight receivers currently in the mix know they will get those opportunities.
“I think it does make it easier from the standpoint that after they’ve been here awhile, they start to figure out that we’re not going to just play three receivers. We’re going to play five, six receivers a game. I know last year before the first half was done at TCU, we had played eight receivers.
“They understand that if they’re making plays and they’re doing the things they’re supposed to do, they’re going to get an opportunity to get on the field.”
With a strong group of running backs returning and a talented trio of athletic tight ends, Messingham will be looking for his receiving group to move the chains and present a deep threat down the field.
“I want us to make more plays down the field,” he noted. “I think part of that comes from our quarterbacks throwing good balls and our receivers making catches that, if you’re going to be a starting Big 12 wide receiver, you need to make those catches.”