Texas Football: 3 problematic Iowa State players vs. Longhorns

Jaylin Noel. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
Jaylin Noel. Mandatory Credit: Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jaylin Noel. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Jaylin Noel. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports /

Jaylin Noel, WR

Iowa State has a stellar wide receiver duo that is the strength of the offense this season with juniors Jayden Higgins and Jaylin Noel. Higgins and Noel have already combined for over 80 receptions, 1,000 receiving yards, and eight touchdowns.

The big 6-foot-4 and 210-pound Eastern Kentucky transfer Higgins is having a breakout season for the Cyclones as a true possession receiver on the boundary. First-year starting quarterback Rocco Becht can just throw the ball up to Higgins and let him make a play on it on the boundary. He’s as reliable as it comes, as Higgins only has one drop on the season.

Higgins is among the best wideouts in the Big 12 in bringing down those tough contested 50/50 balls on the boundary. He’s in the top 10 in the Big 12 in contested catches this season, with five.

Don’t get fooled by Higgins’ big frame, though; he can make big plays with the ball in his hands after the catch. Higgins is second on the team in yards after the catch and first among the starters in yards after the catch per reception.

Whether he gets the ball in space or Iowa State targets him over the top, Higgins is the most legitimate big-play threat at wideout.

Noel, meanwhile, is the slippery slot receiver who makes plays on offense and special teams. He’s nearly taken two kick/punt returns to the house this season. While Noel has returned only four kicks this season, he averages over 47 yards per return. He’s got three kick returns of at least 40 yards in the last four games for Iowa State.

Higgins does have more explosive plays in the receiving game than Noel this season, but the latter of those two players is the go-to target for Becht. Noel leads the team in targets (71) and receptions (52).

Iowa State mostly likes to get Noel out in space in the short passing game to let him generate big plays after the catch. Over 55 percent of Noel’s targets in the passing game this season have come between 0-9 yards in front of the line of scrimmage.

When Noel has an adequate cushion on underneath routes, he makes opposing defenses pay. He ranks third in the Big 12 in yards after the catch on short passes.

Iowa State also utilizes Noel to dink and dunk opponents in the short passing game to move the chains on offense. He’s good at operating in tight windows, especially between the numbers and out in the flats. Noel’s ability to get wiggle free in tight areas and make defenders miss in a phone booth makes him extremely effective on those intermediate gains, which helps Iowa State pick up first downs.

Noel has burned Texas before when he went off for 94 receiving yards and two touchdowns on six catches when these two teams met last season.

Texas had trouble defending these types of wideouts who can make big plays in the short and intermediate passing game over the middle and can get over the top on their safeties. Higgins and Noel both have over 150 receiving yards on deep passes. And they both rank among the top 15 wideouts in the Big 12 in receiving yards on inside-breaking routes in conference play (which is the type of route concept Texas has struggled to cover).

Next. 4 key injured Texas players heading into the Iowa State game. dark