Listen to Austin 360 Radio

With stalwarts gone, Xavier Hutchinson becomes new leader of Iowa State offense

Alyssa Hertel
Des Moines Register

Since joining Iowa State football in 2020, it’s been an upward climb for Cyclones’ wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson. He was named the Big 12 Offensive Newcomer of the Year in his first season with Iowa State, and was a First Team All-Big 12 selection in two straight years.

Hutchinson was former Cyclones’ quarterback Brock Purdy’s top target in 2021, setting an Iowa State single season record with 83 receptions for 987 yards and five touchdowns.

With each game played last season, the junior college product saw his draft stock rise as he cemented his status as one of the top-three receivers in the conference. And Hutchinson did all that with Purdy completing passes to All-American tight end Charlie Kolar.

Iowa State wide receiver Xavier Hutchinson (8) breaks a tackle last season.

But now, Purdy and Kolar are gone. Iowa State will also be without several other offensive starters, including Breece Hall — who could be the first running back selected in the NFL Draft — Chase Allen and Derek Schweiger. While several starters on the Cyclones’ offensive line will return this season, Hutchinson will take on a newer role as one of the most experienced players on the offense.

He will be a leader for Iowa State.

That’s something that Hutchinson is ready to take on. Following the Cyclones’ first open practice of the spring, Hutchinson told the media that last season, with players like Purdy on offense and Greg Eisworth on defense, he took the back seat when it came to leadership. That’s about to change.

“I just tried to lead by actions, and those guys spoke about how to work, how to do everything,” Hutchinson said. “Now I’m in a position where I have to speak more. I have to be the guy who’s also talking the talk but walking the walk.”

More:Beyond Breece Hall, how did others perform at Iowa State's pro day? Here are 4 standouts

Leading by example is something that Hutchinson is used to, and his stats from the last two seasons back that up.

“It’s been great for me, honestly,” Hutchinson said. “I wouldn’t change it for anything because I know it’s building me as a man and me as a football player.”

Iowa State receiver Xavier Hutchinson (8) catches the ball on Friday during a spring football practice.

After his performance in the 2021 season, there was thought there was a good chance Hutchinson would feed off that momentum and declare for the draft. A hand injury limited Hutchinson in Iowa State’s bowl game, and he felt he wasn’t ready to leave college football quite yet.

“I really love college football, and I really love playing for Iowa State,” Hutchinson said. “And coach (Matt) Campbell, he let me make my decision on my own. … Just trying to build those things up to make myself look a little bit better in the future.”

So, yes, Hutchinson still has his eyes on the NFL Draft. Just not this year's.

But he knows better than anyone that — if his play continues to improve as it has each year at Iowa State — one extra season of college football should help his draft stock.

It’s a decision potential starting quarterback Hunter Dekkers is happy about, too. Hutchinson will be important to transitioning the Cyclones from an offense under Purdy to one under Dekkers. The Cyclones’ quarterback knows how important Hutchinson will be to his success, saying that if you “throw it in his direction … he’ll go up and get it.”

More:What to look for as Iowa State opens 2022 spring football practice

Now, this spring and summer is about Dekkers and Hutchinson building off what Purdy and Hutchinson created.

“For him to announce that he’s come back was a great feeling,” Dekkers said. “I feel we’ve already got a pretty good relationship. That connection we already have will get better the rest of spring and during the summer.”

With foundational pieces of Iowa State’s rebuild moving on from college football, there are a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to what the Cyclones will look like in the fall. Hutchinson brings a bit of balance to that uncertainty, both on the field and in the locker room.

He’ll be a key piece of Iowa State’s new look offense and an important part of ushering in the Cyclones’ future talent, like four-star wide receiver Greg Gaines.

“That's the biggest thing that you can do, is just try to push the other generation to do better than what you’re doing right now.”

Alyssa Hertel is a college sports recruiting reporter for the Des Moines Register. Contact Alyssa at ahertel@dmreg.com or on Twitter @AlyssaHertel.