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IOWA CITY — The Iowa football defensive backfield’s task of defending Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen just got a little bit harder.
Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz announced Tuesday sophomore cornerback Manny Rugamba is suspended for the opener on Sept. 2 against the Cowboys due to a violation of team policy in the offseason. Rugamba’s absence elevates Michael Ojemudia to the starter’s role.
Ferentz said Tuesday it was a move the team expected, so they’ve been working under those circumstances for a while. Knowing he would miss the first game, Ferentz and defensive coordinator Phil Parker have been able to work other players into the rotation a little and assess where they’re at.
“We’ll move on after that and he’ll be welcomed back with normal status after serving that one-game suspension,” Ferentz said. “I think we’ve had three guys playing well in camp. The challenge really is to find a fourth guy — and a fifth. That’s where we’re at right now. All three of those guys, I think since the spring, have been playing at a really good level. If I had to name the next guy at this point, it would be Matt Hankins, a freshman. We’ve got time to make those decisions, too. We’ve known about this. We’ve been working with that in mind.”
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With Josh Jackson firmly on the other side of the field, Ojemudia and Rugamba were the three guys Ferentz was referring to as standing out at the position.
Ojemudia’s one-week promotion was comfortable decision for Ferentz and Parker, because Parker said the 6-foot-2 sophomore is “obviously getting better,” and “shows he’s getting a little more confidence in him.”
Still, the task of defending Allen was going to be tall even with their starter on the field.
Parker said he’s happy with how everyone has responded to the situation — both Ojemudia sliding into the new role, if only briefly, and Rugamba taking his medicine. Parker said he’s confident the team violation — which was not made specific Tuesday — is something that will stay behind Rugamba.
Now, Parker said, Rugamba has moved forward to helping his position group move forward and prepare for a tough opening week quarterback.
“He’s owned up to what’s going on,” Parker said. “I think he’s going to look forward to this as a learning process. I think he’s taking this as a challenge to himself being a leader on the scout team and helping our offense out for the first game.
Rugamba’s suspension as a starter and key part of the secondary also serves as an example to everyone else, Parker said.
“You’ve got to learn to deal with it. The reason why I became a coach is to help these guys out. It’s our job to do that. Sometimes you’ve got to set an example. Sometimes that helps other guys out.”
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