After winning a B1G West title in 2021 and producing a second 10-win season in three years, Kirk Ferentz and Iowa will enter the 2022 campaign with some expectations. With so much returning talent, there’s no reason the Hawkeyes can’t be in the mix for another division crown when the season kicks off in September.

Iowa is losing some key contributors from a team that went 10-4 one year ago. Center Tyler Linderbaum, defensive backs Dane Belton and Matt Hankins and running back Tyler Goodson are some of the most significant departures from last year’s squad. But there’s still a lot to be happy about in Iowa City.

Several of last year’s key contributors have an opportunity to become the face of the Hawkeyes in 2022 as they look to defend their B1G West title. Here are the five candidates with the best chance heading into the season:

WR Keagan Johnson

As a true freshman, Johnson proved he can be a true No. 1 target in Iowa’s passing attack. There was some reluctance to play the young wide receiver early in the year, but Johnson showed just how much of a threat he can be when on the field during the 2021 season. He totaled 352 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 18 receptions, posting an impressive 19.6 yards per catch average. Johnson is an explosive playmaker with great hands and can be that much-needed downfield threat the Hawkeyes need next season. The biggest question regarding the rising sophomore’s success is whether or not Iowa will field a quarterback capable of getting the ball in his hands consistently.

TE Sam LaPorta

Can we really talk about Iowa without mentioning the tight end position? Regardless of who it is, the Hawkeyes always seem to have one of the best tight ends in the B1G. That will be the case in 2022, with LaPorta returning to Iowa City. He was the team’s leading pass-catcher during the 2021 campaign, hauling in 53 catches for 670 yards and 3 touchdowns. In Iowa’s offense, LaPorta is a reliable target with the ability to break off a big play. Remember how good TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant were out of the tight end position for the Hawkeyes during the 2018 season? LaPorta has the chance to put together that type of year and be the most productive piece in Iowa’s offense.

LB Jack Campbell

Campbell is the kind of linebacker who could start on any team in the B1G. He piled a league-best 143 stops last fall but that was far from his only contribution. The All-B1G linebacker was credited with 6 pass break-ups, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions and a pair of defensive touchdowns. Campbell is a proven capable run stopper and has also shown the ability to make plays when quarterbacks drop back to pass. Iowa has produced several tremendous linebackers under Kirk Ferentz’s leadership and Campbell might be one of the best. He’s going to be all over the field again next season and will be in the conversation to win the B1G Linebacker of the Year honor.

DB Riley Moss

Let’s call it like it is, Moss was the face of the Hawkeyes in 2021. It was pretty hard to shake that image after recording a pair of pick-sixes in the season-opening thumping of Indiana. But Moss was far from a one-hit wonder. The conference’s Defensive Back of the Year ended the season with 39 tackles, 5 pass break-ups and 4 interceptions, helping lead Iowa to a B1G West crown. After having such a great year, offenses are going to be aware of what Moss can do when the ball is thrown his direction. Could that cut down on his production? Sure. Moss is still going to be a nightmare for opponents to plan for and will have plenty of chances to be the star of Phil Parker’s defense again next season.

RB Gavin Williams

For Williams to be the face of Iowa, the run game is going to have to take a major step up. That goes for running backs and the offensive line. Williams will get his chances, though, with Tyler Goodson and Ivory Kelly-Martin both gone, the redshirt sophomore has a shot to be the primary ball carrier in 2022. Last season, Williams rushed for 305 yards on 65 carries. He’ll enter next season coming off the best performance of his young career, though, rushing for 98 yards on 16 touches against Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl. Williams has shown some flashes, but can he be the consistent ball carrier the Hawkeyes need to be successful on the ground?