WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Installing a new offense, Kirk Ferentz anticipated things might be a little rough around the edges this spring for the Iowa football team.
That proved to be the case again Friday, when the Hawkeyes found themselves dealing with two more unanticipated bumps in the road during their first public appearance of the spring.
Iowa’s practice at Valley Stadium was its first without starting free safety Brandon Snyder, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament late in practice on Thursday.
The Hawkeyes were also without starting receiver Jerminic Smith, who has been suspended from all team activities through at least the end of the semester for failing to meet team academic requirements.
Both setbacks come in areas — the defensive backfield and the receiving corps — where Iowa already was searching for answers this spring.
“We have some guys out right now, but we’re working with what we have,’’ offensive lineman Ike Boettger said. “We’re doing what we can to move forward every day.’’
Ferentz sees progress, but nine practices into the 15 Iowa is allowed in the spring he concedes that there is plenty of work to do.
“It’s way too early to judge any group or any individual,’’ Ferentz said. “We do see improvement and we continue to look for that. When you install a new offense, it takes time. We’re seeing that.’’
Ferentz said Snyder — a 13-game starter last season who ranked third on the team in tackles, led the team by forcing three fumbles and shared the team lead with three interceptions during his first year in the lineup — suffered the injury during a special teams drill near the end of Thursday morning’s practice.
He said Snyder didn’t even realize he was injured at the time it occurred, noticing pain later in the day that was diagnosed as an ACL tear which will likely be surgically repaired next week.
“He’ll come back strong and handle it well, but you feel for a guy who is going to be out for an extended period who has invested so much into preparing for another season,’’ Ferentz said.
Jake Gervase, a junior from Davenport Assumption who recorded four tackles and backed up Snyder last season, took first team reps at free safety during Friday’s 90-minute workout.
Amani Hooker, a sophomore who saw action on special teams last season as a true freshman and has been working as the backup to Miles Taylor at strong safety, will also get a look at free safety during the final six practices this spring.
“We’ll play it by ear right now,’’ Ferentz said.
Unlike Snyder’s setback, Smith’s absence was preventable.
The junior who started nine games last season, catching 23 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns, is being withheld from all team activities because of what is labeled a failure to meet team academic standards including class attendance and required study hours.
“Players who aren’t on the field are losing ground,’’ Ferentz said. “It’s a situation we hope gets remedied. He’ll be off the field at least until the end of spring.’’
With receiver Matt VandeBerg already sidelined for the spring because of a foot injury, Adrian Falconer and Devonte Young were the only recruited scholarship receivers on the field Friday for Iowa.
Nick Easley, a walk-on who joined the program in January as a transfer from Iowa Western Community College, worked out with the starting receiving group of Friday.
“We’re working with the guys that we have and they’re doing what they can to make steps forward every day,’’ Ferentz said. “It’s been slow, but that was expected.’’