IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa knew it would be replacing two starting cornerbacks this spring. Another question mark was added to the secondary equation when No. 1 free safety Brandon Snyder tore his ACL last week.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz said he’s proceeding like Snyder will not be back in ’17. Strong safety Miles Taylor will be surrounded by three new starters in the backend.
Four-year starter Desmond King vacates his cornerback along with Greg Mabin, who started opposite King for three seasons. In anticipation of their departures, Iowa signed six defensive backs in its latest recruiting class.
“It’s like a lot of positions. We’ll get through spring ball. When the (true freshmen) get here in June, we’ll start working and we’ll make those kinds of evaluations in August,” Ferentz said.
Junior Josh Jackson and Manny Rugamba, a sophomore, kicked off spring as the No. 1 cornerbacks on the depth chart. Ferentz said Jackson has enjoyed a strong spring. Rugamba started three games in place of the injured Mabin last season, including an impressive performance against Michigan, with Jackson starting one contest.
Jackson and Rugamba show promise, learning behind King and Mabin. They just need to show the coaches what they can do with regular playing time.
Sophomore Michael Ojemudia and Cedric Boswell, a redshirt freshman, are listed as second-teamer corners on the spring two-deep. The coaches think highly of both. Unfortunately, that’s it for scholarship cornerbacks on campus.
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True freshmen Josh Turner, Matt Hankins, Cam Harrell and Trey Creamer, who was signed as an athlete, add depth to the cornerback position. They’ll compete for playing time in August.
Junior walk-on Jake Gervase was listed as Brandon Snyder’s backup on the spring depth chart. He spent last season in that spot as well.
True sophomore Amani Hooker, who entered spring as the No. 2 strong safety, also is working at free safety. Ferentz mentioned him as a player that has played well this month.
Freshman Noah Clayberg from Pella joined the team in January as a grayshirt. He started the spring at running back but has been slowed by injury. Ferentz said Clayberg could move to safety to help depth at that position. Iowa felt he could play in the secondary when it recruited him.
“We’ll leave every possibility open. That’s part of the puzzle between now and September, figuring out who can do what to help our football team,” Ferentz said.
The coach said Taylor switching to free safety likely won’t happen.
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“I doubt we would move him. So, that’s probably one thing we won’t do,” Ferentz said.
Incoming freshmen Djimon Colbert and Geno Stone will bolster the safety position when they arrive this summer. Walk-ons Joe Argo, Wes Dvorak, John Milani, Jack Koerner and Drew Thomas will be competing for playing time at a position in need of bodies.
While he’s unlikely to be on the field, the Hawkeyes can still benefit from Snyder’s leadership. At the open practice in West Des Moines last week, the junior was tutoring players at the position.
“Brandon is an outstanding young man. He’ll come back from this thing strong and out team will handle it well, too,” Ferentz said.