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CFF Targets - It's GO-time for Iowa's Kaleb Johnson in 2023
Could this unique situation at Iowa Football produce a CFF stud this season?
RB - Kaleb Johnson (6'0, 212)
I am intrigued by one of the lowest scoring offences in CFB over the past two years. Don’t worry, Brian Ferentz didn’t have a gun to my head when I wrote this profile. My interest is genuine. I assume many of my fellow CFF managers are aware of Kaleb Johnson from last season. A true freshman out of Hamilton, Ohio, KJ had a stellar first season considering the anemic offence he played in, rushing 151 times for 779 yards, 6 TDs, and a cool 5.2 ypc. Those are good numbers for a frosh, but they won’t cut it as a stellar CFF asset. I think there’s reason to believe his production will jump in 2023, so let’s turn the heat up here shall we?
I love when there are unique situations in CFB. Deion Sanders coaching his son at Colorado also comes to mind. Unique in the sense that the play calling might abnormally focus volume and stats into a particular player, or emphasize scoring more than usual. There’s just something about familial connections on football staffs that says to me, some crazy shit could happen here. KJ finds himself in a unique situation in 2023 too.
Coaching & System
Let’s just go through a quick recap of the Iowa Hawkeye offence in the last two seasons under OC Brian Ferentz. Iowa finished 130th and 123rd nationally in team offence (total yards per game) in 2022 and 2021, respectively. Many speculated that Brian Ferentz would be fired this offseason. He may very well have if not for the fact that his father, Kirk Ferentz, currently CEOs the Hawkeye football program. Instead, Brian’s contract was revised in a unique way that could benefit CFF managers. One of the amendments that caught my eye was the stipulation that Iowa must average at least 25 points per game by the end of the 2023 season.
My mind immediately went to the Iowa Hawkeyes OOC schedule. Iowa opens the season with Utah State, Iowa State and Western Michigan. Bingo. Brian Ferentz would be wise to run the score up as much as possible on the weaker opponents of their schedule next season, and Utah State and Western Michigan in particular should be ripe for the taking. Iowa also plays Northwestern, Rutgers, Purdue, Nebraska and Michigan State, which should be games where they can score significant points too.
Now you might be saying that this situation is not as unique as you make it seem, VolumePigs, it is implicitly implied that every OC should try to score as much as possible. Sure, there is truth to that. But I think the fact that the terms are laid out so explicitly, in a matter of fact way that the offence must reach a certain threshold, combined with the fact that the head coach is the OC’s dad (who probably wants to see him succeed) signals to me that there should be an organizational push to put up points. That’s what we want as CFF managers.
My concern is the traditional tendency of Iowa to not funnel carries into one player, and although the shift to more aggressive play calling should be beneficial, that alone is not enough to justify KJ as a lock to be a high-end CFF RB. Iowa has typically been one of these conservative types of offences built around RBs and TEs, however they do not have a recent track record of high level CFF production from the RB1. They typically split most of the carries between two RBs, and you essentially have to go back all the way to 2011 to find the last high level CFF Iowa RB in Marcus Coker (281-1384-15). Making matters worse, last year’s RB2, sophomore RB Leshon Williams, returns to Des Moines this season too. Note that it is plausible for KJ to offer CFF value while in a split backfield due to the run-first approach of this offence, so long as that split is something approximating 65/35 in KJ’s favour.
Tyler Goodson, Iowa RB from 2019-2021, ran 256 times for 1151 yards and 6 TDs in his last season in Iowa City. That’s pretty good, but it is not exceptional. Ideally we would like to see a higher number of carries and more TDs than that for KJ next season. I suppose the obvious question we should consider is if KJ’s predecessor couldn’t put up higher numbers, why will it be different now? Although Goodson had a solid freshman season too, and put up similar numbers to KJ’s, I do not believe he was as talented as KJ (this is just my own eye-test, take this with a grain of salt). KJ appears stronger with more potential to be explosive than Goodson, and KJ is bigger (6’0, 212) compared to Goodson (5’10, 199). That, and the fact that the OC’s seat is on fire should provide plenty of ammunition to put the ball in KJ’s hands in 2023. The OC needs points and KJ is one of, if not Iowa’s best offensive players, the formula should be simple, and I plan to bet on that in re-drafts this summer.
Right now I am looking at KJ as a potential round 10+ guy. At the very least he should provide some pop in September when Iowa plays Utah state and Western Michigan. Depending on how sharp your league is, and how many of them read VolumePigs (hopefully these two statements become synonymous one day), a big brain play could be to use KJ in September and then trade him when his stock is high before the in-conference schedule kicks off (double big brain if it’s a swap for a MAC stud, IYKYK…)
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