Texas Football: 4 major concerns for Longhorns vs. Iowa State

Steve Sarkisian, Matt Campbell, Texas football
Steve Sarkisian, Matt Campbell, Texas football /
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Jaylin Noel.
Jaylin Noel. /

Deep shots and inside routes with Jaylin Noel and Jayden Higgins

Iowa State’s two biggest weapons on offense are standout junior wide receivers, Jayden Higgins and Jaylin Noel. Higgins and Noel have broken onto the scene as two of the best wide receivers in the Big 12 this season.

The big 6-foot-4 and 210-pound Higgins is an Eastern Kentucky transfer who is having a major breakout season for the Cyclones this fall. Higgins ranks in the top 10 in the Big 12 this season in receiving yards (610) and yards per catch (17.4).

Higgins is the big boundary receiver who can pull down those tough contested 50/50 balls downfield. He is excellent at high-pointing the football and timing his jumps to make the catch over opposing defensive backs in coverage.

Iowa State likes to utilize Higgins in the intermediate and deep passing game, as roughly 50 percent of his targets have come with at least 15 air yards.

Higgins is a dangerous threat for the Longhorns due to the issues Texas had defending the deep ball at certain points this season. Texas has done better defending the deep ball in the last few games, but it’s still something to watch as they’ve allowed the fifth-most yards per coverage snap on attempts of at least 20 air yards in Big 12 play.

Moreover, Noel is the other big threat for the Cyclones in the receiving game. He leads Iowa State in receptions (52), targets (71), and yards after the catch (279).

Noel is the go-to target in the passing game for redshirt freshman quarterback Rocco Becht. Iowa State likes to target Noel in the short passing game to get him out in space to generate explosive plays. Noel is a quick and elusive wideout who generates good separation while working in tight windows, mostly between the numbers.

Noel probably poses the biggest threat to Texas through the air this weekend due to his elusiveness and the separation he creates while running underneath routes.

Texas has really struggled in Big 12 play this season to cover the inside-breaking routes in the short and intermediate passing game. Texas ranks in the bottom three in the Big 12 this season in yards per coverage snap and passing yards allowed per game against inside route concepts.

Not only are opponents finding success each time they attack Texas with inside-breaking routes, but they’re also doing so more often in Big 12 play.

All told, Noel and Higgins have formed one of the top receiver duos in the Big 12 this season, as they’ve combined for over 1,100 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. They will be a handful for a Texas pass defense that has struggled in the second halves of games in the Big 12.