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What's Up With DJK?

There's rumblings afoot that Derrell Johnson-Koulianos-Popadopalis has once again worked his way onto Kirk Ferentz's bad side, to the point where DJK is only a second-stringer on the spring two-deeps; Trey Stross and Colin Sandeman are the starters.

Now, clearly, a lot can change between spring and the first weekend in September. Recall, if you will, that 12 months ago, the starting tailback was Seamus Patel Paki O'Meara. That situation changed a bit.

But this isn't the first time DJK has lost his starting spot; he was coming off the bench midway through the Big Ten slate before earning his job back. Here's what Ferentz said about him this past week:

"He's got to improve just like everybody else," Ferentz said of the man known as DJK. "There's a lot of little things that he can do better. With receivers, when they make plays, it's pretty obvious, but there are a lot of things that go on during the game that go unnoticed by the average person watching. That's a challenge for all the guys."

This, presumably, is a reference to downfield blocking and route running; we're not sure what else a receiver can do (or, in this case, neglect to do) that would merit being taken out of the starting lineup.

Moreover, this isn't just any starting receiver. Let's make an unlikely prediction and say that DJK doesn't improve his production one bit, and his stats over the next two seasons end up being the same as his first two seasons. That'd leave him with 162 catches and 2,242 yards for his career. As Morehouse pointed out, that's 30 yards away from Tim Dwight's record at Iowa, and 5 catches more than Kevin Kasper's record. So what we're really talking about is a player who's on pace to be on a very short list of the greatest receivers in Iowa history.

So then at some point, DJK's starting spot becomes a question of priority for Kirk Ferentz. At what point do you take the offense's only dynamic playmaker (sorry, Trey Stross) out of the game, and in favor of what in return? How relevant is downfield blocking when there's nobody to keep the defense from stacking 8 or 9 guys in the box on every play outside of 3rd and 25? I mean, no offense to Colin Sandeman, Trey Stross, Paul Chaney, or the comically porntastic Marvin McNutt, but... we're talking about the best Iowa receiver of at least the last 10 years. If Ferentz is going to start benching star players, he'd better be damned sure he's putting a better product on the field instead.