A cornerback corps that was already quite inexperienced entering the 2018 football season got a little bit greener this past week, as Manny Rugamba found himself on Twitter on July 3rd and officially announced his intention to transfer on Monday afternoon.
⏱— Emmanuel Rugamba (@BooRadd_) July 4, 2018
Rugamba, a Naperville, IL native, saw significant action as a true freshman in 2016, when he played in 12 games and ended up starting the final few contests of the regular season after Greg Mabin suffered a season-ending injury. While he turned in solid performances all season, his name was etched into Hawkeye lore when he intercepted Michigan QB Wilton Speight late in the fourth quarter with the Wolverines looking to put the game away. After his interception, of course, the Hawkeyes would go on to defeat Michigan on the Keith Duncan walk-off field goal, and without Rugamba, you can’t say Iowa would’ve had that opportunity.
With the departure of both Greg Mabin and Desmond King following the 2016 season, many figured that Rugamba would get first dibs at a starting cornerback position in 2017 and he was expected to be one of the next great Iowa defensive backs. The hype train came to a screeching halt, however, as he was suspended for the Hawkeyes’ season opener against Wyoming for violating team rules. He then battled inconsistency and injury for the majority of the season, and was simply unable to take off like many hoped he would following his breakout freshman campaign. He first suffered an ankle sprain that kept him out for two games, then found himself injured again at the end of the season. Those injuries, paired with ineffectiveness at times throughout the season, found him sitting on the sideline a lot more than he probably would’ve liked. By the end of the year, true freshman Matt Hankins was receiving the starts opposite Josh Jackson while Rugamba was found as the backup on the depth chart. It’s hard to speculate how much of that was due to injury, but whatever the case may be, it simply wasn’t the season Rugamba or anyone else had imagined.
Heading into 2018, many figured Rugamba would at least be in a battle for a starting cornerback position after the departure of Josh Jackson to the NFL. With a relatively inexperienced squad of corners that included him, Hankins, and Michael Ojemudia, it looked like he was poised to find himself a starting role, if not a role in nickel. Now, it looks like the starting cornerback positions will be manned by Hankins and Ojemudia, meaning that the nickel (and god forbid those two suffer injuries) will likely be a revolving door of kids without any experience at the collegiate level - Trey Creamer and Josh Turner both redshirted as freshmen last season, and this year DJ Johnson and Terry Roberts join the team as true freshmen. With the return of Brandon Snyder this year, it’s possible that we see Jake Gervase or Amani Hooker end up with some time there depending on the need, but it’s not a situation that you want to see Iowa in, that’s for sure.
Best of luck to Manny Rugamba in finding a new home. May your future find you healthy and successful wherever you end up, and Hawkeye fans will always remember you positively for that clutch interception that helped us beat Jim Harbaugh and Michigan.