Kaleb Johnson Earns Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week + Freshman Player of the Week Honors

By RossWB on November 7, 2022 at 9:09 pm
© Alex Martin/Journal and Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

Iowa: home of the Big Ten's finest freshmen? The Hawkeyes at least have some of the league's finest freshmen, as evidenced by an Iowa player earning Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors for the second week in a row. This week's recipient? Breakout running back Kaleb Johnson. 

But as the tweet notes, Johnson wasn't just the Big Ten Freshman of the Week -- he was also the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. That's the kind of recognition that running for two bills will get you. Johnson produced the best game of his young Iowa career against Purdue on Saturday, erupting for 200 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries against the Boilermakers. We really can't watch that gorgeous 75-yard touchdown run that he had enough, so let's take another look at it: 

The offensive line opened up a nice hole for Johnson, but he showed great timing to burst through the hole at the right moment. Then he got to the edge and his speed just took over; he flat-out ran away from the Purdue defensive backs trying to catch up to him. That 75-yard touchdown run was Iowa's longest run since Tyler Goodson's 80-yard touchdown run against Wisconsin in 2020; his Offensive Player of the Week win was Iowa's first since Ihmir Smith-Marsette earned weekly honors for his efforts against Wisconsin in 2020. 

It was a tremendous individual performance, one of Iowa's best in a road game in the last 20+ years. 

Johnson is the first Iowa freshman running back since Marcus Coker (!) in 2010 to have two 100-yard rushing performances. He's also, as best I can tell, the only Iowa freshman aside from Coker to rush for 200 or more yards in a game (Coker ran for 219 yards in Iowa's win over Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl). 

For his part, Johnson seemed as impressed by his performance on Saturday as the rest of us were: 

I said this about Johnson in my recap on Saturday and I stand by it: 

A very memorable game by a kid who looks like he's going to be a very, very special running back for Iowa. His combination of vision, power, speed, and shiftiness is impressive to watch. 

You don't have to be a football expert to tell that Johnson looks special. With running backs, you can usually tell pretty quickly if they have that "it" factor... and Johnson has it. It was clear the first time he got a few snaps and it's been increasingly apparent in every game since. He's (deservedly) ascended to the top of the depth chart at RB and it's thrilling to imagine what he might be able to do in Iowa City over the next few years, especially if Iowa's offensive line continues to gel and improve as it has over the last two weeks. Since his emergence, Iowa fans have been trying to compare him to past Iowa running backs, but I don't think there really is a good comparison for Johnson among those players -- his combination of size, speed, and vision seems pretty unique. 

Congratulations on some well-deserved weekly accolades from the Big Ten, Kaleb. And here's guessing they won't be the last honors you receive at Iowa, either. 


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