IOWA CITY – Desmond King was a rock in the Iowa secondary for four seasons.
Greg Mabin provided the same level of consistency on the other side of the field.
Together they combined to start 86 games for the Hawkeyes at cornerback, experience the Iowa football team is working to replace as it works toward its Sept. 2 season opener against Wyoming.
Joshua Jackson and Manny Rugamba currently top the depth chart on the back corners of the Hawkeye defense, feeling prepared, determined and ready to create their own legacies at the cornerback position.
“I can’t be Desmond King, but I can be the best I can be and that is what I’m working to make happen,’’ Jackson said. “I’ve learned a lot by watching and talking with him over the past couple of years. Now, it’s time for me to show what I’ve learned.’’
Jackson believes he is ready to make that happen at the left cornerback position King started at a school-record 51 times over the past four seasons.
The junior made his first career start in the Outback Bowl, replacing Rugamba at right cornerback after he had taken over as a starter in three games for an injured Mabin.
“Cornerback is always going to be a position where you have to have a short memory, where you have to move on from one play to the next and be ready to finish the game,’’ Jackson said. “You have to compete on every single snap and that is what I’m getting ready to do.’’
That competition motivates Jackson.
“I’ve always liked the challenge that goes with playing cornerback,’’ he said. “There are some great receivers in the Big Ten and on our schedule and you have to be ready to deal with them and be able to make plays when you are tested.’’
Jackson is also working to help develop cohesion in the Iowa secondary.
He joins Rugamba and Michael Ojemudia as the only experienced cornerbacks on the roster, with Rugamba listed as the starting right cornerback and Ojemudia listed as Jackson’s back-up as fall camp started.
The 6-foot-1, 192-pound native of Corinth, Texas, is beginning his fourth year in the Hawkeye program and part of his role is help bring along a group of young cornerbacks.
Iowa’s recruiting class includes four freshmen cornerbacks and coach Kirk Ferentz expects that at least two of them will see the field this fall either on defense or special teams.
“We know that quarterbacks will test us at corner this year. That’s part of the deal,’’ Jackson said. “Those guys who have been out there forever, Desmond and Mabin, they’re not here anymore so it is up to the next group of guys to come in with the same mindset and the same determination it takes to get the job done.’’
Rugamba shares that belief.
“The one thing I think we all learned from the seniors last year was how to prepare and how important that is,’’ Rugamba said. “They were ready for the fight every game. We need to be the same way.’’
Jackson, who recorded three of his 10 tackles last season in his start against Florida in the Outback Bowl, sees that as part of the job description.
“The way teams throw the ball now, we know that we’re going to be tested and we have to be ready for that on every down,’’ he said. “We have to be ready to step up and meet the challenge.’’
Jackson's resume at Iowa includes time spent during spring practices in 2015 as a wide receiver, a position he played in addition to defensive back at the high school level.
He said the brief experimentation during that spring has benefited him since returning to the defensive side of the ball.
What he learned there now helps him prepare to face receivers, preparations that he now uses as he tries to teach the newcomers in the program.
“The thing we’re trying to show the young guys is it is about how you prepare,’’ Jackson said. “It’s about how you watch tape and how much you can learn about the opponent and how ready you are to answer whatever they throw your way.’’
Jackson learned that as much as anything that King taught him.
“He was meticulous in the way he prepared, the attention to detail made a difference and in the end, it’s how you prepare that ultimately is the difference between winning and losing, both individually and as a team,’’ Jackson said.
“What I learned from Desmond that way is guiding me now as I get ready for this year.’’