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.
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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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