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Nate Stanley will start Saturday's season opener at quarterback against Wyoming at Kinnick Stadium.

Five things to think about following the Iowa football team's public practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines over the weekend:

1. A work in progress

Kirk Ferentz said Friday's nearly two-hour practice pretty accurately portrayed where the Hawkeyes are at right now, nine practices into the introduction of a new offense.

"We're not a real good football team right now,'' Ferentz said. "Don't expect to be in April. The objective is to be ready when the season starts.''

That's typically been the case in each of the five years the Hawkeyes have traveled to West Des Moines for an early April practice.

Iowa's offense has never been polished at the event and was anything but as it settles in with new terminology and a new scheme. What is usually a little rough around the edges was a lot rough around the edges this year.

Some of that will take care of itself with time. Some of that is reflective of where this team is at with a new quarterback and plenty of inexperience at the receiver spots given the absence of Matt VandeBerg (injury) and Jerminic Smith (academics).

With Akrum Wadley being withheld from contact as well this spring, the Hawkeyes have a lot of room for growth.

The good news? They don't play a game until September. There is plenty of time for improvement and Ferentz said he is seeing that.

"We see a lot of individual improvement going on right now. We're doing some good things at times, but we can't get lined up sometimes,'' Ferentz said. "The formations are different, the language we're using is different so guys are getting used to that still. We expected that.''

2. QB competition is real

Ferentz has maintained since the start of spring that competition to replace C.J. Beathard at quarterback is open and neither Nate Stanley or Tyler Wiegers did anything Friday to disprove that notion.

The performance of both quarterbacks was pretty pedestrian, and illustrated the lack of experience that both candidates have at the collegiate level.

Stanley emerged as the back-up last fall and took a handful of snaps, much the same way Wiegers emerged as the back-up two seasons ago and took a handful of snaps.

Stanley throws a good-looking ball. Wiegers has the reputation for being a pinpoint marksman behind center. They were recruited by Big Ten programs for a reason.

Both are clearly wrestling with Iowa's new offense and its lack of veteran receivers, at least it appeared that way throughout Friday's workout.

Stanley opened with the first unit in 7-on-7 drills, but Wiegers took the first-team snaps in 11-on-11 drills.

Ferentz did say that the pair had separated themselves from the other two scholarship quarterbacks in the program, Drew Cook and Ryan Boyle.

"We have Tyler and Nate, and then the second tier is Ryan and Drew. All four guys are doing a good job,'' Ferentz said. "They've been attentive, are doing some good things, but again, we're not real consistent.''

Consistency will ultimately determine just who lines up behind center and if Friday's brief glimpse into what is transpiring in spring drills is any indication, Iowa's quarterback situation remains clearly cloudy at this point as Ken O'Keefe settles in as the Hawkeyes' QB coach.

Expect this competition to continue into fall camp.

3. Secondary issues, primary concern

The loss of starting free safety Brandon Snyder to a torn ACL is an issue, if for no other reason than how it impacts depth in a defensive backfield that was already looking to replace two starting cornerbacks.

The length of Snyder's absence remains undetermined but a torn ACL traditionally means at minimum a six-month rehab process that can extend up nine months.

Translation - don't expect Snyder back on the field until mid-October at the earliest.

Jake Gervase, Snyder's back-up last season, and Amani Hooker will both likely get a look at the position during the final weeks of spring practices.

Iowa has six true freshmen defensive backs scheduled to join the program this summer. If Gervase or Hooker aren't the answer, that talent pool may get a close eye as well.

Like Snyder a junior, Gervase is preparing for his fourth season in the program and Hooker saw action last fall as a true freshman on special teams.

The solution at the position likely will come from one of those two positions.

4. Gaining ground

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With Wadley watching most of the action from the sidelines this spring, back-ups Toren Young and Toks Akinribade are being prepared for action.

It's easy to understand how both fit into Iowa's future plans. Young brings a physical, downhill running threat to the backfield, much like LeShun Daniels, brought to the field, and Akinribade has a hint of the cutting abilities that have made Wadley so effective with a bigger body.

Young spent last fall working with the scout team as he redshirted. He also concentrated on keeping his pads down and has grown to the point where will likely join Akinribade in getting some carries behind Wadley this fall.

The Hawkeye ground game is in good hands.

5. By the books

A handful of Hawkeyes didn't attend Friday's workout because of class schedule conflicts which prevented them from getting to West Des Moines.

Cornerback Joshua Jackson and defensive tackle Cedrick Lattimore, both listed as starters on the spring depth chart, were among the missing.

That type of thing is to be expected when scheduling a practice several hours away from campus on a day when classes are in session.

Jerminic Smith's absence, however, is a bit disturbing.

One of Iowa's most experienced receivers has been pulled from all football-related activities for failing to meet team academic standards including class attendance and study hours.

Preparing for his junior season, Smith should be spending this spring angling for opportunities in Iowa's new offense in addition to showing up for class and mandatory study sessions.

Instead, he'll focus on getting his stuff together off the field while putting himself behind the curve on the field. That's unfortunate in an area where Iowa lacks depth and needs the quickness Smith brings to the field.

Devonte Young and Adrian Falconer were the only two scholarship receivers on the field Friday night in West Des Moines, although walk-on and junior college transfer Nick Easley turned in a solid performance and could be positioning himself for a role in the Hawkeye passing game in the fall.

The Hawkeyes will benefit from the return of Matt VandeBerg and the addition of new recruits, but it is easy to understand why coaches are looking for greater production from tight ends and running backs in the passing game given the lack of depth at the receiving positions currently on the field.

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