Iowa Football: DJ Johnson transfer hurts, but is survivable

ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - OCTOBER 05: Nico Collins #4 of the Michigan Wolverines makes a first quarter catch against D.J. Johnson #12 of the Iowa Hawkeyes at Michigan Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN - OCTOBER 05: Nico Collins #4 of the Michigan Wolverines makes a first quarter catch against D.J. Johnson #12 of the Iowa Hawkeyes at Michigan Stadium on October 05, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

DJ Johnson will spend the rest of his career away from the Iowa football program. After two years with the Hawkeyes, DJ announced on Twitter that he was entering the transfer portal with three years of eligibility remaining.

Iowa football is going to be starting the season without DJ Johnson, who played in 11 games last year, starting in one and for the most part holding his own. DJ won big ten co-freshman of the week against Iowa State after posting 8 tackles and two pass break-ups. To be fair, Iowa State was clearly aware of the freshman corner and Johnson was targeted early and often, falling victim to the early double pass which led to a Cyclone touchdown.

DJ made it clear his decision had nothing to do with playing time, which I believe because, well he was going to play plenty. Especially with the injury history of the Iowa corners on the roster, it would be a miracle getting through this season without injury. With the assumed lack of depth following Johnson’s departure, I can say with somewhat certainty that DJ was going to be on the field plenty.

The loss of DJ isn’t a fatal blow, but is certainly one but will hurt in the already daunting task of replacing third-round draft pick Michael Ojemudia. Obviously, we have Hankins coming back who struggled with injuries last year but the general consensus around the program is that he’ll continue being a solid starting Big Ten cornerback.

The real question mark is the other side of the field, but there is some solid experience and play there as well.

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I’d say the other starting corner spot is up in the air, but it will likely be junior Riley Moss who’s been a solid corner throughout his career (let’s just forget that dreaded Purdue game a couple of years ago). But saw action in nine games last season, tallied two interceptions, and brings an experience that can not be understated as the Hawks attempt to fill the big hole left by Ojemudia.

Julius Brents will be right in the mix for playing time, and will hopefully be fully healthy after an injury-plagued season, Brents saw action in just one game before redshirting. But one thing is clear, Brents is highly touted around Iowa City. Ferentz, Parker, and the rest of the staff believe that this kid is a stud.

He played in 11 games as a true freshman and as far as I can remember was a pretty solid asset, it is possible you heard me questioning if he was better than Hankins way back in 2018. If Brents is healthy, there is no reason that he couldn’t find himself in the starting lineup but at the least, Brents will be on the field in big spots this season.

With the experienced core three of Hankins, Brents, and Moss holding down the majority of snaps. Iowa will still need more than those three, which is where Johnson would have provided. This however, will generate opportunities for young guys like Daraun McKinney, Terry Roberts, or even class of 2021 recruits AJ Lawson and Reggie Bracy to see the field early and get a chance to earn playing time later in the season.

Just another great example of why the 4 game redshirt rule is a game-changer, we are going to see at least a few of these guys in action early. They’ll gain experience, continue to improve, and before we know it the torch will be passed. We just got to trust Phil Parker’s process.

The bright side of the secondary is certainly last year’s emergence of Dane Belton at the cash, the Iowa defense’s hybrid between a free-safety, outside linebacker, and in some situations a cornerback. And free safety Jack Koerner who earned his way into the circle of trust after a solid season in replacement of injured Kaevon Merryweather. Merryweather dealt with a ton of injury troubles last season but was expected to start and looked good in limited action.

The transfer of DJ Johnson will be noticed, as will the loss of Michael Ojemudia and the secondary will face it’s challenges early. Iowa State and three-year “Heisman hopeful” Brock Purdy are scheduled to come to Kinnick, followed behind with a road game with a dangerous Minnesota team that returns quarterback stud QB1 Tanner Morgan and a 1,200-yard receiver in sophomore Rashod Bateman.

One thing is for sure, Hawkeye fans are gonna have a good idea of where our secondary is early on in the 2020 football season. Will the loss of DJ Johnson hurt? Of course, especially early on. But if Iowa corners on the current roster can stay healthy, we’ll be just fine.