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IOWA FOOTBALL OPEN PRACTICE: WHAT WE'RE WATCHING

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The Hawkeyes invade West Des Moines, Iowa.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. The Hawkeye Football team will again hold practice before the public at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines Friday night. Gates open at 4:30 and practice gets under way at 6:00 pm. There's an autograph session before the 6:00 practice begins and a kid's Coaches Clinic following the practice. The latter is new as Iowa is trying to make the annual event more family-friendly. The move to Friday night does the same as Saturday in the spring is for Little League and for old men, The Masters.

FOR US OLD MEN, this is the first look at the 2016 Iowa Football team. There's not a lot of intrigue as quarterback and running back are settled. But there's still plenty to observe and here's what we're watching:

Will Sean Welsh stick at center and if so, can Keegan Render hold off James Daniels at guard? Render/Daniels could give Iowa six solid options along an offensive line that will be deeper than last year.

How does Ike Boettger look? He earned the starting right tackle spot last year before losing most of the season to injury and his job to Cole Croston. Boone Myers has since moved inside to guard and Croston has taken the left tackle spot. We assume it won't be the horror show it was last fall with the OttMonster terrorizing practice.

How will the defensive ends look and what is the rotation (if there is one)? Matt Nelson and Parker Hesse have experience due to Ott and Nate Meier being injured last year. Is Nelson an every-down DE or will Anthony Nelson or Sam Brincks push for playing time? With the additional year of experience, we expect the tackles to hold their own this year but an occasional win for the defensive ends would be a very good thing.

Is Jerminic Smith ready for prime time? He's set to take over for the departed Tevaun Smith, but Jay Scheel is behind him on the depth chart and hungry to for playing time. How do Scheel and Andrian Falconer look and can they provide Iowa with at least five options at receiver (VandeBerg, Smith, McCarron, Scheel and Falconer)? Does Jonathan Parker figure into the mix here at all?

What's behind George Kittle? Jameer Outsey is number two at tight end but LeVar Woods admitted that he's still a work-in-progress as a receiver. Woods also mentioned that Jon Wisnieski is improved over last year at this time, but he also mentioned that there's opportunity for a freshman for playing time.

Who's winning the battle at OLB? Aaron Mends vs. Jack Hockaday might be the best battle of spring. Who appears to have the edge or, more importantly, what skill set does each have and how can they both contribute? We usually don't see the Raider package in these practices but there may be some nicklel if Iowa has the bodies to do it.

The secondary is pretty thin with Josh Jackson limited and Greg Mabin out rehabbing after shoulder surgery. There are still two seniors with Maurice Fleming joining Desmond King to lock down Iowa's young wide receivers. Is the battle one-sided or does each side get their occasional win? Fleming could be Iowa's nickel corner this year and will contribute on special teams. Iowa adds a few bodies here in August but the expected contributors are all on the roster now.

Are the reports of Akrum Wadley adding a few pounds really true? Both he and LeShun Daniels won't carry much in live scrimmage but they'll be part of position drills. We should get to see plenty of Eric Graham and Marcel Joly and one of them could be the fourth guy Iowa seems to need next season. There are two new faces at running back coming in the fall but Graham, or perhaps Joly, could earn that fourth spot now.

How's the battle for QB3 and QB4 going and will it even matter in August? Tyler Weigers locked down the second quarterback spot behind C.J. Beathard last year and it's likely to remain his. Practice observation reports say Beathard looks mobile and recovered from off-season surgery but he's one play away from Weigers time. Does Iowa have a capable back-up if called upon?

We'll get a look at Iowa's kicker and punter battle but it may be better to judge that in August as Iowa has several new faces joining Mick Ellis and Miguel Recinos this fall. We've been hesitant to discuss it since three new walk-ons will compete for the jobs this summer.

Finally, we'll be in search of new contributors. We've already discussed breakout players and spring is the right time to gauge if redshirt freshmen will play this year or need more time. Some new faces we're excited about are Michael Slater, Michael Ojemudia, Anthony Nelson, Sam Brincks, Eric Graham, Emmanuel Ogwo, Nate Vejvoda, the Paulsen twins, Brett Waechter and Brady Reiff.

Who (or what) are you looking forward to seeing at the open practice this Friday?