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kinnick view

With the uncompleted north end zone project in the background, Iowa football players warm up for the start of a public practice earlier this month at Kinnick Stadium.

Five thoughts and things to think about following Iowa's Kids Day scrimmage and public practice on Saturday at Kinnick Stadium.

1. It's early. Really early.

Saturday's practice was the eighth of fall camp for the Hawkeyes, four practices earlier than folks normally have a chance to see what is always a work in progress at Kinnick Stadium.

The Hawkeyes were, as expected, raw and plenty rough around the edges. It's early August. That's the way it works and it's a time in camp when defenses normally have the upper hand.

That was the case Saturday although before flags started to fly to a multitude of false start and motion penalties, the Nate Stanley-led first offense did sustain a pair of lengthy drives.

Iowa utilized its offensive personnel well, blending running backs and fullbacks into the passing game and showing some of the potential that exists.

2. Three backs are better than none.

It appears that Iowa is headed toward a running back by committee arrangement this season and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Toren Young and Ivory Kelly-Martin have enough experience and ability to shoulder most of the load but junior college transfer Mekhi Sargent will contribute.

Young brings power to the position while Kelly-Martin has shown both quickness and enough physical skill to blend together with the elusive skills Sargent displayed on Saturday, although most came while working against the second-team defense.

Expect all three to contribute and if Iowa can avoid predictability, it appears to have the horses to expand beyond what Akrum Wadley brought to the table last season and continue to run an effective ground game.

3. There's work to do up front.

With starting tackles Alaric Jackson and Tristan Wirfs out of the mix for the Sept. 1 season opener, the Iowa offensive line will be even younger than anticipated.

There is potential there, but the second-team offensive front struggled to deal with what the Hawkeyes' second-team defensive line was dishing out Saturday.

That is in part a reflection on the depth and experience Iowa has up front on defense, but it also illustrates that the task of developing the sixth, seventh and eighth offensive linemen who are Big Ten-ready remains an ongoing process for the Hawkeyes.

The ability to close that gap will be a significant component to how the Iowa season plays out.

4. A healthy Matt Nelson is a good thing.

There's a reason Iowa shifted Matt Nelson from defensive end to defensive tackle last season and after missing the spring while recuperating from shoulder surgery, the senior demonstrated just how disruptive he can be.

The 6-foot-8, 295-pound Cedar Rapids native rejected three passes on Saturday, illustrating that he was studying for more than his MCATs during the offseason.

The ability Iowa will have to blend players inside and out on its defensive front, which included Sam Brincks shifting inside on Saturday, is going to help the Hawkeyes mix and match looks based on opponent and down and distance.

It's a good place to be in if you're defensive line coach Reese Morgan.

5. The Kinnick edge will be improved.

The north end zone construction project at Kinnick will remain that throughout much of the 2018 season, but standing on the turf Saturday there is a different feel to the stadium where Iowa has played its home football games for the past 89 seasons.

Concessions and restroom facilities will be portable this fall and construction will continue throughout the season on a project which isn't scheduled to be completed until next summer.

But, from the steeper pitch and three tiers of seating to the look of new black padding at field level that includes the stadium name and "Home of the Hawkeyes,'' the vibe is different.

It is likely Kinnick will be a much louder environment on game days this season while maintaining its reputation for being a cozy, crowded environment for visiting teams to adjust to.

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