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Gone Baby Gone: De'Andre Johnson Dismissed From Football Team

Alas, poor De'Andre! I... didn't know him at all, actually. None of us did. I don't mean "know" him as a person the way his friends and family do, but "know" him as a football player, the way we come to understand other young men who spend 4-5 years of their lives in Iowa City, wearing black and gold, and performing as we cheer our heads off. We didn't even get to appreciate De'Andre Johnson in that sense.

Johnson arrived at Iowa out of Florida as part of the class of 2010, along with Marcus Coker. Johnson redshirted during the 2010 season as he continued to rehab from an ACL injury suffered his senior year of high school. That rehab process was slow, but there was hope that he could help spell Coker during the 2011 season. Unfortunately, Johnson found himself passed by true freshman running backs not once (Mika'il McCall), not twice (Jordan Canzeri), but thrice (Damon Bullock, briefly). Frankly, that was not a ringing endorsement for his future, but hey, if you're a running back at Iowa and you stick around long enough, it's practically a guarantee that you'll get an opportunity at some point. Sure enough, the usual running back apocalypse hit late in 2011 and early in 2012 and things were positioned for Johnson to get his opportunity at running back. Even with Coker, McCall, and Canzeri gone or out of commission, he couldn't quite commandeer the top line on the depth chart, but no matter -- there's every reason to think that he still would have been given a shot in 2012. We'll never know now, of course.

Johnson's departure doesn't leave a gaping hole in production -- his Iowa career amounted to just 79 yards on 18 carries, spread across four games in 2011 -- but he had been in the Iowa program longer than any other current running back (seriously -- let that one sink in for a minute), he (theoretically) knew the Iowa system and blocking schemes better than any other running back on the team, and was expected to be a contributor in 2012. Now he's just the latest in a long, long long line of running backs to depart the program long before their eligibility was used up. A year ago, Iowa had five running backs under scholarship -- Johnson, Marcus Coker, Mika'il McCall, Jordan Canzeri, and Damon Bullock. Just two of them are left now and Canzeri is unlikely to play this season after tearing an ACL this spring.

In some ways, this dismissal makes total sense -- Johnson ran afoul of the law twice in the span of less than a week, which is generally a pretty poor idea. On the other hand, Johnson's offenses were among the most minor any Iowa player has been charged with in recent years. A 'disorderly house' citation? Speeding? These crimes are a far cry from what we've seen in the past. There was no use of illegal drugs. There was nothing (directly) alcohol-related about the crimes. There was no credit card fraud, no sexual assault allegations, and no (non-sexual) assault charges. The timing of Johnson's infractions was poor -- it's not wise to get in legal trouble twice in the span of a week and it's not great judgment to get in trouble on the eve of fall practice -- but in and of themselves, the offenses don't seem to warrant dismissal.

Which begs the question -- is there more to this story than has been made public? Did something happen behind the scenes that made Johnson's dismissal inevitable? To clarify, my intention is not to speculate wildly or impugn Johnson's character. That's certainly not fair to him. But taken by themselves, these offenses don't scream "dismissal." They scream "suspension," maybe, or "in-house discipline," but not outright dismissal. Maybe the close proximity of the offenses was more significant than I'm giving it credit for being. Maybe Ferentz simply decided Johnson was too much of a headache to deal with anymore. Regardless, this is a dismissal that makes more sense on the surface ("oh, Iowa running back? and he got in legal trouble twice in a week? yeah, see ya later") than it does after digging a little deeper.

(EDIT: Friendly neighborhood commenter Mike Jones points out that Johnson was also charged with "eluding arrest" during that speeding incident, which is a serious misdemeanor and not as petty as his other crimes. It's possible that that may have tipped the scales toward "dismissal" in this case.)

Less than a year ago, Damon Bullock was a fifth-string tailback (at best) and being groomed for a possible move to receiver. Today he's Iowa's leading returning rusher. I'm past laughing, I'm past crying, I'm just numb. Another Iowa running back is gone. So it goes.