By Dallas Jones
EVANSTON, Illinois – The 2021 football season marked the first time in the Kirk Ferentz era that true freshmen were made available for the media. Nine games into the season, Keagan Johnson and Arland Bruce IV are two freshmen who have shown that they deserve to be the spotlight.
The two roommates seemed to have a lit a fire under themselves tonight, along with the rest of the offense when Sophomore QB Alex Padilla stepped in for the injured Spencer Petras on the Hawkeyes fourth drive.
“Coming into the week we knew Spencer was dinged up and Alex had taken some reps with the ones. I knew after practicing together all week it would work well.” said Keagan Johnson, “It was one of the main things that played into our success today. Me and Arland both have a connection with Alex after taking second team reps with him. Through fall and spring ball that connection was there and we knew it would be there today.”
Keagan totaled 61 yards on four catches in the first half alone, all from Padilla. Bruce capped off Padilla’s second drive with a 10-yard rush into the end zone.
“Two young guys that are really talented. You kind of have to have them on the field. I have gotten a lot of second team reps with them and that helps me be comfortable with them.” said Padilla.
Johnson has emerged as the clear top dog in the wide receiver room and seems to make a big play every time he touches the ball. He is the leading Hawkeye wide receiver in yards with 282. After tonight he has 13 catches on the season and one touchdown, averaging a team best 21.7 yards per catch.
“Anytime I have a one on one with Keagan, I mean he’s a great player. I know he’s going to make a play.” said Padilla.
Johnson totaled eight targets in the first half of Saturday’s game against Northwestern, which would have been the most in a single game for Johnson by itself. He finished the game with ten, giving him five catches for 68 yards on the day.
As Johnson has proved himslef to be the number one guy in the wide receiver room, Arland Bruce has proven himself to be a true utility player.
Lining up on the outside, slot, and even being used as a rusher in certain situations. He has brought in 14 passes this season for 109 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for a touchdown in the first half of tonight’s game, ending game with 40 yards from scrimmage.
“Being able to see Keagan and AB come in as first year players and see them produce the way they are is amazing. It shows how well they practice and prepare, it is paying off.” said Iowa RB Tyler Goodson.
The Hawkeyes will look to implement their young receivers even more next Saturday against Minnesota in Iowa City.