IOWA CITY — Their middle linebacker could be back this week. Arguably their best wide receiver will not.
Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz said Kristian Welch has been working in practice as he continues to recover from an injury incurred in the third quarter of the Penn State game October 12.
Welch has missed the last three games and has been replaced in the starting lineup by redshirt freshman Dillon Doyle and true freshman Jack Campbell. They have acquitted themselves well, but it’s always a bonus to have more experienced guys available, especially at such an important position.
“It helps,” Ferentz said. “It certainly helps to have senior players out there. He’s a leader, he’s been voted captain weekly. That just tells you the respect everyone has for him. I think our young guys have done a good job, but anytime you have a senior in the lineup, it helps. He’s getting closer. We’ll have to see how the week pans out here.”
Wide receiver Brandon Smith likely remains out with an ankle injury suffered in the Oct. 19 win over Purdue. The junior had really begun developing into a consistent weapon for the Hawkeyes.
He still leads the team with four touchdown catches and his 33 overall receptions are second. That’s despite missing the last two games.
“He’s coming along. I doubt that he’ll play this week, but but hopefully he’ll be dressed out and will be able to warm up,” Ferentz said. “He’s making progress, and we’ll take that day by day and see where that goes.
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“At least it’s encouraging. He’s out there now running with the trainers. Starting to move around, change of direction, those kinds of things. So we’ll see how fast he’ll come along, but at least it’s encouraging.”
On a positive side with Smith’s injury, redshirt freshman Tyrone Tracy has emerged and is coming off a career game last week against Wisconsin in which he had five catches for 130 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s a good illustration of a guy we are going to be talking about in the future,” Ferentz said. “A guy who the door has opened a little bit wider (for). He was playing already. But more reps have been coming to him just because of the situation. He not only took advantage of that, but he’s also really helped our football team. It’s a good example of a young guy, his first or second year playing, who has worked hard and continued to improve. Then when the door opened for him, he jumped in and has made a difference for us.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, around 2,500 tickets remain unsold for Saturday’s game, according to Iowa Sports Information Director Steve Roe.
As part of military appreciation, there will be a flyover of four A-10 aircrafts prior to kickoff from Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
Next week’s game at home against Illinois is at 11 a.m. and will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Playing from ahead
Minnesota is 6-0 in the Big Ten Conference going into Saturday’s game. That’s the first time that has happened since 1961.
The Golden Gophers have trailed for only 10 minutes and 35 seconds total in those six games.
Just kicking it
Iowa’s Keith Duncan is tied for first place in the country with a school-record 22 field goals made this season. He is 22 of 25 overall, including 3-for-3 last week at Wisconsin.
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Jake Verity of East Carolina also has made 22 field goals, though he has missed one more than Duncan.
Safeties posting numbers
Iowa’s top two leading tacklers are its safeties.
Free safety Jack Koerner leads the team with 39 tackles, including 21 unassisted.
Strong safety Geno Stone has 33 total tackles, including a team-high 25 unassisted.
The rest of the top five are cornerback Matt Hankins (30 tackles), defensive lineman Chauncey Golston (29) and linebacker Djimon Colbert (26).
If you’re into that sort of thing, here is where Iowa players eligible for redshirts stand going into Saturday.
Running back Tyler Goodson (9 games played), tight end Sam LaPorta (8) and linebacker Jack Campbell (7) are true freshmen who have blown past the four-game redshirt threshold. True sophomore Riley Moss played his fifth game last week against Wisconsin and won’t be redshirting.
Right at that four-game mark are true freshman offensive lineman Justin Britt, true freshman defensive back Dane Belton and junior running back Ivory Kelly-Martin. The others are true freshman wide receiver Desmond Hutson (2 games), true sophomore safety Kaevon Merriweather (2) and true freshman defensive back Jermari Harris (2).
True sophomore DB Julius Brents has played in one game and appears to be redshirting.
Saturday marks the 130th anniversary of Iowa’s first football game. That came Nov. 16, 1889, against Grinnell College. The Hawkeyes’ overall record is 656-560-39.
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