We'll talk more about Iowa's open practice in West Des Moines in a little bit, but the most newsworthy bits on Friday came out prior to the practice. That's when we learned that two projected starters were each going to be out of action tonight, although the prognosis for one is much gloomier than the other. Let's start with the worse news:
FS Brandon Snyder suffered a torn ACL in practice this week, per Iowa.— marcmorehouse (@marcmorehouse) April 7, 2017
Oof. Snyder was the most experienced member of Iowa's secondary and its main returning starter. He took over the starting free safety job last season after Jordan Lomax graduated and as a redshirt freshman he took his lumps at times. But he also was Iowa's co-leader in interceptions (three, tied with Desmond King) and forced three fumbles, including a key one against Rutgers that helped secure the victory there. He finished third on the team in tackles with 85.
Most importantly, Snyder showed progress through the season and was certainly better at the end of the year than he was at the beginning (gaining a new safety partner in Anthony Gair may have also helped matters). This injury really sucks because Snyder appeared to be getting ready to enter the good part of the Iowa free safety walk-on life cycle, the part where they've made their mistakes and start to improve. We endure the freshman and sophomore years of guys like Snyder and Brett Greenwood to get to see them as juniors and seniors. This injury is going to delay that development. The release from Iowa doesn't indicate that the injury is season-ending... but it's a torn ACL. The season is less than six months away. The odds of him being able to come back and contribute this season are miniscule. The good news is that he'll still have a year of eligibility remaining even if he is forced to sit out all of this season (he does not have a redshirt available; he used that when he arrived on campus in 2014). Heal up and come back in 2018, Brandon.
Jake Gervase, another former walk-on, is listed behind Snyder on the depth chart so he'll likely get the first crack at replacing Snyder. The staff has a little over half of spring practice (and all of summer practice) to get him ready if he is indeed the next man in at free safety. One intriguing option to consider is sophomore safety Amani Hooker, currently listed behind Miles Taylor at strong safety. Hooker played all over the field in high school and has tremendous athletic bona fides; he could be an extremely exciting option for Iowa in the defensive backfield. That said, he'll need to prove that he can handle the mental aspects of the position -- making the correct reads and adjustments -- before he earns the starting gig. Snyder's absence will also put more pressure on Miles Taylor, now Iowa's most experienced safety. Hopefully he's ready to take a big step forward in terms of consistency this year, especially in pass coverage; if not, Iowa's pass defense could be pretty shaky in 2017.
The other absentee Friday was of the non-permanent variety -- or so we hope. Jerminic Smith was held out of practice "due to not meeting team academic standards, which includes class attendance."
Some not good news. pic.twitter.com/teqIp1RV19— marcmorehouse (@marcmorehouse) April 7, 2017
Get to class, Jerminic. This absence doesn't sound too serious yet, but we'll monitor it to see if any additional news emerges. Let's hope we're not writing a Gone Baby Gone for Smith by summer. As inconsistent as he has been in the passing attack for Iowa over the past two seasons, he's been a very good blocker and he still has enough potential as a receiver that it's enticing to see what he could become if he could just get a little more consistent in his route running and catching ability.