WEST DES MOINES — There were no conclusions worth jumping to during Iowa’s open practice Friday night at Valley Stadium.
The Hawkeyes had helmets. Coaches had whistles. Several players had to miss the drills, which lasted maybe a little more than an hour before a crowd of around 6,000, because of Friday night classes.
Quarterbacks Tyler Wiegers and Nathan Stanley traded snaps with the first team. Senior running back Akrum Wadley worked punt returns, while sophomore Toks Akinribade and redshirt freshman Toren Young traded No. 1 reps, which were minimal contact with players in helmets, shells and shorts.
No conclusions from Friday. This a developmental snapshot of a developmental football team.
“We’re not a real good football team right now, didn’t really expect to be in April,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “The objective is to be ready when the season starts. We see a lot of individual improvement right now. Way too early to judge anything, any groups or any individuals, but we do see improvement and that’s a big part of spring football.”
No big conclusions Friday night, but there certainly was news.
Junior free safety Brandon Snyder suffered a torn ACL in his left knee during practice on Thursday and, Ferentz said, is likely doubtful for the 2017 season. He’s expected to undergo surgery next week.
“I don’t know that he’ll be ready at any point next year,” Ferentz said. “We can’t count on that. If it happens, that’s a bonus.”
The 6-1, 214-pound junior from Larchwood finished third on the team last season with 85 total tackles. He shared the team lead with three interceptions and led the Hawkeyes with three forced fumbles.
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Junior walk-on Jake Gervase and sophomore Amani Hooker are candidates to fill Snyder’s spot. Iowa also has six defensive backs among the incoming freshmen class. Ferentz said he doubted they would move strong safety Miles Taylor into the free safety position.
In another announcement Friday, junior wide receiver Jerminic Smith has been suspended from football activities. According to a release from the school, the decision was made because of Smith wasn’t meeting the team standard for academics, including class attendance and study hours.
Ferentz said Smith will be out for the remainder of spring practice with no timetable for a return. Smith caught 23 passes and two TDs last season and was expected to be a top target this spring.
“If a player is not on the field, they’re losing ground,” Ferentz said. “That’s unfortunate. Hopefully, we’ll get this remedied and we’ll get him back on the field, but that’s really in his hands right now.”
Smith’s absence leaves Iowa’s offense this spring with just two scholarship wide receivers available — junior Adrian Falconer and sophomore Devonte Young.
“It’s fun right now,” Young said. “Coach Brian Ferentz and new wide receivers coach, coach (Kelton) Copeland, are bringing a lot of energy to the field. That keeps everyone moving forward. Everyone is hyped.”
Falconer and Young fall into the developmental category right now.
“They’re both doing better, they’re not ready for prime time yet,” Ferentz said. “That’s kind of our team right now.”
Lots of eyes were on the quarterbacks. There wasn’t a whole lot to evaluate. There were a lot of checkdowns and flat routes, working mostly quick passes. Neither Wiegers nor Stanley were particularly accurate, but hey, it was a Friday night in West Des Moines, a million miles from football that matters for this team.
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Don’t read anything into the fact that Wiegers was first for all of the drills. Ferentz did say the No. 1 job is between Wiegers and Stanley. Sophomores Drew Cook and Ryan Boyle are the next tier.
“Just progress, Ferentz said when asked what he needed to see out of quarterback this spring. “We’ll see how it plays out, but I don’t expect this thing to clear up in the next two weeks. I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’re prepared to go into camp and let the guys keep competing. At some point we’ll have to make a decision, but this isn’t the time for that.”
— Defensive end Matt Nelson remains out with a lower right leg injury. Ferentz said that shouldn’t linger and Nelson should be ready for summer conditioning in June. Defensive tackle Nathan Bazata remains out of drills with an ankle injury. Sophomore defensive tackle Cedric Lattimore had to miss Friday night because of class.
— Asked if any players maybe surprised coaches with their spring performances, Ferentz mentioned redshirt freshman tight end T.J. Hockenson, Hooker, guard Ross Reynolds, cornerback Joshua Jackson and defensive tackle Brady Reiff. Ferentz also said junior wide receiver Nick Easley is progressing nicely.
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