For the first time in four seasons, Desmond King will not suit up for the Hawkeyes in the defensive secondary. Seriously. Wow. Quite a bit has been said about all the amazing things he did for the Hawkeyes during his time at Iowa. If you ask me, we’ll see a lot about the things he ends up doing for the Chargers as well.
But now it’s time to move on from one of the greatest defensive backs in Big Ten history, as hard as that is to swallow. He’s not the only one, as Anthony Gair is gone with the wind as well. However, Iowa is pretty far from the bottom of the barrel — Phil Parker keeps the defensive backs pretty well-stocked.
It paid off last year, as injuries ravaged the secondary and forced a number of guys we knew little to nothing about into service. And you know what happened? They played pretty damn well.
Defensive Back Scholarship Distribution Chart
|Jake Gervase; Brandon Snyder
|Noah Clayberg; Djimon Colbert; Geno Stone
|Michael Ojemudia; Manny Rugamba
|Trey Creamer; Matt Hankins; Camron Harrell; Josh Turner
WE KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT THESE GUYS
-Name: Manny Rugamba
-Listed height/weight: 6-0, 185
-Skills: Shutting down Michigan wide receivers, clutch, looks the part
-2016 statline: 12 games (3 starts), 19 tackles (.5 TFL), 2 INT (7 yds), 4 broken passes, 1 FF
OOOOH KILLUM. Right place. Right time. What. A. Stud. This certainly wasn’t Rugamba’s only good moment of the season. The freshman played in 12 of 13 games, the lone one he didn’t play in being the Outback Bowl, due to injury. With Greg Mabin injured for the final four games of the season, Rugamba missing the matchup played no small part in the Hawkeyes falling to Florida.
Quarterbacks will be throwing away from these returning Big Ten cornerbacks in 2017. pic.twitter.com/Jg0tEX4xqx— Aaron Resnick (@aaronmresnick) July 10, 2017
Mabin being sidelined, however, really gave Rugamba some time to show his stuff. There’s nothing better than having a talented young player get on the field early in his career — just look what it did for King, to give you a direct comparison.
There’s little doubt Rugamba won’t have a corner spot locked down. If he can build at all on the bits and pieces we saw in 2016, the Hawkeyes might just have another special corner in the making.
-Name: Josh Jackson
-Listed height/weight: 6-1, 192
-Skills: Being a guy everyone likes to talk about, switching from offense to defense and back again, is actually very good
-2016 statline: 12 games (1 start), 10 tackles (1 TFL), 4 broken passes
-The nitty gritty:
This really seems like it’s Jackson’s make or break year with Iowa. He’s currently listed first on the depth chart and the signs would point to him making the leap to a starting position come fall. We know Jackson has off-the-charts athleticism and hands — it’s why I would the guess the football staff wasn’t exactly unhappy to give him a chance on both sides of the ball.
He could probably be a decent wide receiver, but last year Parker decided to keep him on the defensive side of the ball, which was a good choice. Iowa needed depth at the position and while it was also needed in the receiving corps, they seemed to unlock something inside him.
Can he take it to the next level and sustain it for an entire season? That’s the big question right now.
#TBT to his high school mixtape though:
-Name: Miles Taylor
-Position: Strong safety
-Listed height/weight: 6-0, 195
-Skills: HITSTICK. HITSTICK. HITSTICK. He likes to hit people. He’s pretty good at it too.
-2016 statline: 11 games (10 starts), 45 tackles (1 TFL)
We know Miles Taylor can lay the wood. The problem has — sometimes — been coverage. His style of play also means there’s an injury risk and that has to be taken into consideration as well.
But man. He. Can. Hit. That’s certainly not a bad quality to have in the elder statesmen of the secondary group. If Taylor can stay healthy and not have the issues with concussions he had last season, it’s almost certain he’ll start the season. There aren’t a whole lot of players underneath him who inspire a lot of confidence at the position.
Kirk Ferentz and by extension, Phil Parker, usually go with experience in these type of situations. It’s a spot to watch, however, and one Iowa will have to think about grooming someone to replace him when the time comes.
It’s been awhile since Iowa had a truly special season out of a safety. Maybe Taylor can break the slight streak.
So those are the guys we think we know something about. You could make the argument we know a bit about Michael Ojemudia, who saw action in 12 games last year, or Jake Gervase who played in 12 as well. Ojemudia projects to be a solid corner and Kirk burned his redshirt to get him on the field — by necessity, really, due to injures — but wasn’t particularly great in the Outback Bowl.
Gervase, on the other hand, has been thrust into a potential starting role. Losing Brandon Snyder (3 picks, 3 TFL, 85 total tackles, 3 FF, 4 broken passes) to an ACL injury is a shot to the heart. Not great.
Sophomore Amani Hooker is interesting and did get his redshirt burned this year. He played a lot of special teams last year and was quite good at it. That’s a good way to get yourself noticed by the Iowa coaching staff and it wouldn’t surprise me if they play with him in the secondary a bit. Safety? Corner? Your guess is as good as mine.
As the for the freshman? I wouldn’t exactly expect Geno Stone, Djimon Colbert, or Noah Clayberg to see time this season. Though, once again, you never know. If they do see the field it’s likely on special teams. As for the freshmen corners, the Hawkeyes added 4 newcomers in Matt Hankins, Josh Turner, Camron Harrell and Trey Creamer. Creamer may not end up at defensive back and Harrell isn’t likely to get a lot of run, but Turner and Hankins will likely see the field on special teams. Given they are least likely to redshirt, it’s possible they are used in certain packages on defense as well.