Iowa announced Wednesday night that star cornerback and kick returner Cooper DeJean would miss the rest of the 2023 season.
The school said DeJean had suffered a lower leg injury and did not specify which leg. The statement made it clear that DeJean’s injury would rule him out of any bowl game.
“This is truly heartbreaking for Cooper,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said in a statement. “He has played extremely well and is a real playmaker on our team. We will all support Cooper during his recovery, which will continue into the new year.”
DeJean’s injury is the latest significant injury for the Hawkeyes in 2023. Iowa has also lost QB Cade McNamara, TE Luke Lachey and TE Erick All to season-ending injuries this season.
Iowa moved up to No. 16 in the College Football Playoff rankings Tuesday night after a 22-0 win over Rutgers. DeJean has been one of the team’s best players and has 41 tackles, two sacks and two interceptions through the first 10 games. Iowa said in its statement that DeJean had played over 400 snaps in pass coverage in 2023 without giving up a touchdown.
DeJean has also been prolific as a punt returner as he has 21 returns for 241 yards and a touchdown. That score came with less than four minutes to go against Michigan State in September and was the go-ahead TD in the Hawkeyes’ 26-16 win.
DeJean appeared to have broken another go-ahead punt return TD in October against Minnesota, but that return was called back after officials ruled that the wave DeJean made before fielding the ball off the bounce was an invalid fair catch signal and prevented him from advancing the ball. Iowa went on to lose that game, 12-10.
The junior is a possible first-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and it’s unclear if his injury will impact his ability to work out for teams if he chooses to declare. Yahoo Sports’ Charles McDonald had DeJean going No. 11 overall to the Arizona Cardinals in his Nov. 1 mock draft. As a sophomore in 2022, DeJean had 75 tackles and five interceptions.
The Hawkeyes are a win away from clinching the Big Ten West and have games remaining against Illinois and Nebraska. A 10-2 regular season is still possible for Iowa despite scoring fewer than 19 points per game. That’s because DeJean and the Iowa defense allow just 12.3 points per game.