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Iowa State Daily

Young receiver room finds leaders in Noel, Higgins

Jacob Rice
Jaylin Noel stretches during pregame warmups of the Iowa State vs. Kansas State football game at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on Nov. 25, 2023, in Manhattan, Kansas.

One of the interesting things the wide receiver room at Iowa State presents is the youth. Of the 11 receivers on the roster, seven are underclassmen and five of them are redshirt freshmen.

The Cyclones lost one receiver to graduation after the 2023 season and returned the majority of the room. At the top of the totem pole are seniors Jaylin Noel and Jayden Higgins.

Noel has been at Iowa State for all four of his years playing college football. He was a top target last season and was a part of the All-Big 12 Second Team. Noel will likely be the go-to guy again in the fall.

“Noel has obviously done a tremendous job at everything we’ve asked him to do,” wide receivers coach Noah Pauley said. “He’s one of the most competitive guys I’ve ever been around. He’s the elephant in that room and guys know that. I think [Noel] knows, this last year, is that he’s got to put everything together and he’s excited about that.”

Higgins came to Iowa State last season after two years at Eastern Kentucky. He played all 13 games and earned an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention in his first year with the Cyclones.

For the two of them, they will be the leaders of this young group of receivers. Their dynamic and chemistry grew over the course of last season and has continued to grow in spring practice.

“[Noel] is the more vocal, get everyone going, [Higgins] is the lead by example, do the things right, make the big play,” Pauley said. “They are two guys that I’m very fortunate to have in the room. Everything they do, from individual drills to the way they carry themselves off the field.”

The leadership role was not something Noel thought he was thrust into. His experience and trust among coaches and teammates allowed him to smoothly step into the role.

“I feel like it kind of naturally happened,” Noel said. “Having to gain the respect of other guys on the team and then not only that, just being able to be an example for other guys. I have to be able to do the things that I’m saying or else it’s like it’s not going to work out. So, I definitely feel like it naturally happened. It wasn’t something that was asked of me and I kind of stepped into that.”

Combine that with his relationship with Higgins, and Iowa State can be set up for success in the fall. Their different approaches complement each other for the betterment of the wide receiver room.

“I feel like we both do a good job at mentioning things that need to be said,” Noel said. “I feel like we do a good job of just being examples for the younger guys and I feel like [Higgins] has helped me improve my leadership a lot and I would say the same vice versa.”

Among the young talent and new players sits Beni Ngoyi, who redshirted his freshman year but did see some limited action on the field. Ngoyi caught a 46-yard pass in the Liberty Bowl and played some snaps against BYU.

Throughout spring ball, Ngoyi has been praised for his growth and athletic ability.

“He’s one of those freak athletes,” Noel said. “I feel like he’s one of the most athletic people on our team. He continues to improve every day.”

Noel highlighted Kai Black, Tyler Claiborne and Jason Essex as young receivers in the room who have shown promise along with Ngoyi. All will be contenders to fill roles behind Noel and Higgins, along with the new transfer Iowa State brought in.

The expected receiver to be third in the depth chart is Army transfer Isaiah Alston. During his three years with the Black Knights, Alston was the leading receiver his sophomore and junior seasons, despite playing just four games in 2023.

“Army is a run first team, heavily, so him just coming in, being able to get more opportunities to go make those plays are obviously exciting for him,” Noel said. “It’s just fun to see his energy and excitement coming in each day.”

With a team like Iowa State that is more pass-heavy, Alston will be introduced to an entirely different scheme than he saw at Army. The question will be how he can adjust to the new system and Big 12 play.

“First thing about [Alston] is that he’s a great kid,” Pauley said. “He’s gelled well with the room. He came in with a little bit of an injury, so kind of worked through that right away, but he’s getting back into full team reps. He’s been a great addition to the room.”

With the spring game on the horizon, the wide receiver room will be one to keep an eye on, especially the young players. Noel knows what the group and the team is capable of and is confident as to what the team can do in the fall.

“The standards we set and the goals we set, I feel like we can achieve those,” Noel said.

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Jacob Rice, Visual Editor
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