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10 DAYS TO 2023 KICKOFF: Keagan Johnson

In which BracketCat counts down the 10th day until the 2023 kickoff with a profile of Kansas State wide receiver Keagan Johnson.

#6 Keagan Johnson
Into the void created by the graduations of Malik Knowles and Kade Warner, both now on NFL rosters, steps Keagan Johnson (6), a transfer wide receiver from Iowa who is recovering from some injuries. Any coincidence that the Hawkeyes fielded an all-time worst offense after he was hurt?
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Goal No. 10: NEVER GIVE UP. Never, never, never.

#10 Keagan Johnson

Redshirt Sophomore | 6-0 | 193 lbs. | Omaha, Nebraska
Keagan Johnson
Keagan Johnson
Courtesy Kansas State Athletics
  • Position: Wide Receiver
  • Previous College: University of Iowa
  • Projection: Starter
  • Status: On Scholarship

Keagan Johnson (b. Sept. 13, 2002) is a deep threat transfer from Iowa who has stormed into spring and fall camp to claim the No. 1 wide receiver position for himself entering 2023.

Johnson played in 13 games in 2021 at Iowa with nine starts as a true freshman, hauling in 18 receptions for 352 yards and two touchdowns, including a career-high 92 receiving yards and a touchdown on two receptions during his first career start against Colorado State.

His first career catch was a 43-yard touchdown, while he also had a career-long reception of 49 yards and set a career high with five catches at Northwestern, for a total of 68 yards.

Johnson tallied a 27-yard touchdown reception against Minnesota and had two total catches against the Golden Gophers, while he also had multi-catch games against Penn State, Purdue and at Wisconsin. He tallied a 12-yard rush against the Badgers.

However, Johnson only saw time in two games in 2022 as he missed 10 games due to injury, thus this served as his redshirt season. He caught two passes for 11 yards against Nevada.

Chris Klieman has had no shortage of praise for Johnson during his media appearances:

Keagan Johnson was exceptional in the spring and it’s carried over into the fall. ... Keagan is an exceptionally talented guy. He has a great feel for the game and high-points the ball and uses his body well to catch the ball. He’s a complete, complete receiver. He has a chance to be really special.

We are asking him to come in and fill the need that Malik (Knowles) left. He had an exceptional spring of football for us. Will (Howard) didn’t get very many reps with him, so I know those two have gotten together a lot over the summer to work on their timing of things. Keagan is an explosive football player and runs extremely good routes and has great ball skills. I don’t know how it’s all going to shake out as far as how many balls he’s going to catch, but the only thing I could’ve told you last year was that Deuce (Vaughn) was going to get the football. I don’t know how much it’s going to be between Phillip (Brooks), Keagan, RJ Garcia, (Ben) Sinnott, Treshaun (Ward) and DJ (Giddens), which makes it exciting for Collin Klein. We have so many people we can get the football to.

While Howard may not have had much spring time with Johnson, he was still impressed:

Keagan ran 22.3 miles per hour today, I think it was. Man, he was cruising. He can absolutely cruise, and he’s a stout guy, too. He has some legs on him, and man, he can fly. He can straight fly.

Johnson, who is majoring in communication studies, prepped under head coach Michael Huffman at Bellevue West High School in Omaha, where he was rated as an athlete by On3, which placed him No. 19 nationally in the Class of 2021.

He also was viewed as the 22nd-best athlete in the nation by 247Sports, which rated him the second-best overall prospect in the state of Nebraska.

Johnson earned first-team Super State honors as both a junior and a senior from the Lincoln Journal Star, while he was named one of the top six players in the state of Nebraska prior to the 2020 season by the Omaha World-Herald, as well as an all-state performer by the paper.

He totaled 1,612 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns over three prep seasons, including a 935-yard, 10-touchdown campaign as a senior, and also rushed 33 times for 263 yards and nine touchdowns during his career.

Johnson also returned 19 kickoffs for 371 yards (a 19.5-yard average) and 20 punts for 171 yards (8.6-yard average) over his final three campaigns, making him a dark horse to fill those roles for K-State as well. He was named a team captain as a senior and also played baseball.

Johnson offered this assessment of his abilities when talking to D. Scott Fritchen recently:

There’s a lot of areas of my game that I’m working on, but if I had to pinpoint one thing, I’m well rounded. I have pretty good speed, strong hands, I pride myself on being a good route runner with good breaks. I don’t like to talk too highly of myself because I know two years from now there’ll be more things that I’ve learned and added to my game.

His offensive coordinator Collin Klein has a slightly more rosy assessment, to say the least:

He’s a big-time outside receiver. He’s got in-line speed to run by some people. He has really good twitch and burst out of breaks. His ability to put his foot in the ground, change direction, create separation on the comeback at the top of the route, is as good as I’ve seen in a minute.

Prior to transferring to K-State, Johnson picked Iowa and its struggle-bus offense over offers from Iowa State, Kansas State, Nebraska, North Dakota State, Northern Illinois, South Dakota State and Wyoming, as well as recruiting interest from Minnesota and Northwestern.

His father, Clester Johnson, played college football at Nebraska in the 1990s.