Countdown 2008: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos

If the 2008 Iowa offense is going to come close to hitting on all cylinders, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos will play a big factor. He might have as much 'upside' potential as any player on the 2008 roster. Consistency and health will be two key factors as to how much 'DJK' will develop this year, and the kind of impact he might be able to have...

The annual Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon will be held on July 24th and 25th, which is 53 days from today.  It's an event that many view as the unofficial ‘kickoff' to the Big Ten football season, which is why is providing a player by player snapshot analysis of the 2008 Iowa football roster.


We will begin by taking a look at the players that were on Iowa's spring depth chart, then proceed through the rest of the roster's scholarship players and key walkons, and finish with a look at the new faces that made up Iowa's recruiting class of 2008.


Next Up:  Hawkeye Receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos


2007 By the Numbers:  one kickoff return for 20 yards vs. Northern Illinois . . . two receptions for 21 yards and one kickoff return for 19 yards vs. Syracuse . . . saw action in loss at Iowa State, recording 30 yards on two pass receptions and 77 yards on two kickoff returns . . . had career-best 65-yard KO return on final play of game at Iowa State . . . four receptions for 45 yards and first career touchdown at Wisconsin, along with two KO returns for 63 yards . . . first career score came on 21-yard, one-handed reception with four seconds remaining in first half . . . 44-yard KO return in fourth period set up Iowa's final field goal . . . started at wide receiver in loss to Indiana . . . recorded six receptions for 68 yards, including an 18-yard touchdown catch . . . also had three KO returns for 69 yards . . . started at wide receiver in loss at Penn State . . . one pass reception for 10 yards, along with 62 yards on two KO returns . . . started at wide receiver in win over 18th-ranked Illinois. . . had two pass receptions for 27 yards and added 27 yards on two KO returns . . . started at wide receiver in loss at Purdue; had six receptions for 57 yards, along with 84 yards on three KO returns, including a best of 51 yards . . . started at wide receiver in double OT win over Michigan State . . . had one rushing attempt for 13 yards to set up winning touchdown in second overtime period and had one kickoff return for 23 yards . . . started at wide receiver in win at Northwestern  . . collected career-high marks with eight receptions for 119 yards, including a long of 32 yards . . . also had three KO returns for 51 yards for a total of 170 all-purpose yards . . . started at wide receiver in win over Minnesota; had four receptions for 46 yards, along with one KO return for 21 yards . . . started at wide receiver in loss to Western Michigan; three receptions for 59 yards vs. Western Michigan, including career-long 38 yard reception, along with one kickoff return for five yards.


The Analysis:  It's been a while since a freshman football player captured the fancy of the Iowa faithful the way that Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (herein DJK) prior to even taking one snap in his college career.  Such hype is typically reserved for the backup quarterback in Iowa City, no matter the year or the circumstance.


Then again, DJK saw his legend grow from his high school highlight film where he played quarterback and dazzled fans with his amazing running ability, natural ball skills on the ground and overall electric play.


Add to that Kirk Herbstreit's saying that DJK was perhaps the best player to come out of the state of Ohio two years ago, which included Beanie Wells, arguably the nation's top ranked recruit who now carries the ball for Ohio State, and the legend of DJK was on.


This spawned a number of Chuck Norris-like comparisons, such as ‘DJK doesn't wear a watch, because he decides what time it is,' plus more playful anecdotes.


Most people were having some good clean fun with those, and they were excited to see DJK take the field.  When he did get the ball in his hands, he showed a knack as a playmaker.  He also showed that he was a redshirt freshman with only a couple of years experience at the wideout position.


That being said, there might not be a player on the entire Iowa roster that has the upshot potential of DJK.


We saw his seemingly instinctual returns skills on his high school highlight tape, something that immediately brought Steve Breaston to my mind; Breaston was a dual threat quarterback in high school before settling at receiver at Michigan and turning in one of the best careers in Big Ten history as a return man.


How high can DJK fly in 2008?  That will depend on a few key factors:


Health:  He missed virtually all of spring practice, which was a big blow for the offense, as the kid can be a threat.  He needed those 15 practices as much as anyone, to continue to work on reading and recognizing hot reads, working on his route running with new receivers coach Erik Campbell, etc. 


Consistency:  You have seen this from me before, and you will again down the road; the biggest hurdle that young players have, if they have the physical part of the game down or are at least on the right road, is making the routine plays from snap to snap.  That includes recognizing blitzes, catching the simple routes and just covering the basics with regularity.  DJK, like several of his inexperienced brethren, had some trouble with this last year.


Ball Security:  One might say that the only thing that will stop this kid from an electrifying career is not hanging on to the football.  He wasn't the only player to fumble the ball last year, but there were a few glaring plays that stood out, none bigger than the fumbled kickoff return against Western Michigan early in that game that really hurt. 


A few of you may be reading this and are wondering:  ‘why so negative?' 


That is not my intent, not in the least bit.  I still believe that Derrell can be the most explosive and exciting player Iowa has had since Tim Dwight wore #6 in Iowa City.  Given my affinity for TD, that's saying a lot.


DJK possesses certain skills that simply cannot be taught.  They can be refined, but you either have them, or you don't.  The great news is that the kid has skills.


With a new receivers coach, those skills could come to the surface in a big way in 2008, as long as DJK improves, in addition to mandatory improvement from Jake Christensen, the offensive linemen and his fellow receivers.


I hope that Derrell can show the coaches early on that he has put his ball security issues behind him, because coming off of last season's dismal offensive performance, this year's offense could use a few points in the kickoff return game, or at least some shorter fields to work with, and DJK is Iowa's most dangerous option returning kicks.


Simply put, if he makes the kind of improvements from last year to this year that he made from his redshirt season to last year, with another off season of wide out work under his belt, he could burst onto the Big Ten scene this season.


Iowa will certainly need that from him if they are to be at their best.


Career Statistics
Receiving              No.         Yds.        Avg.        TD          Lng
Freshman 38           482         12.7        2             38

KO Ret. No.         Yds.        Avg.        TD          Lng
Freshman 22           521         23.7        0             65

Career Receiving Bests
Catches: 8 at Northwestern, 11/3/07
Yards: 119 at Northwestern, 11/3/07
TDs: 1, twice, last vs. Indiana, 9/29/07
Long: 32 at Northwestern, 11/3/07

Career KO Return Bests
Number: 3, three times, last at N'western, 11/3/07
Yards: 84 at Purdue, 10/20/07
Long: 65 at Iowa State, 9/15/07





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