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Iowa's 2018 football season begins at 2:30 p.m. Saturday against Northern Illinois. The Hawkeyes have plenty of familiar faces and some unexpected starters in the mix at Kinnick Stadium.

Here's a little more about them:

 

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Nate Stanley (6-foot-4, 242 pounds, junior) — The Wisconsinite threw for 26 touchdowns last season, good for third in the Big Ten Conference and a share of second in Iowa single-season history behind Brad Banks.

RELATED: Stanley is strong, silent and has been building for this moment

Running back: Ivory Kelly-Martin (5-10, 200, sophomore) — One of the stars of fall camp made most of his hay on kickoff returns last season, averaging more than 21 yards a pop. He also averaged 9.2 yards per carry in 2017, albeit on just 20 attempts.

MORE: Is Ivory Kelly-Martin the new Akrum Wadley? Iowa fans can dream

Fullback: Brady Ross (6-0, 245, Jr.) — It'll be the first start for the walk-on, who originally entered the program as a linebacker.

Tight end: Noah Fant (6-5, 241, Jr.) — The preseason AP All-America selection set a school record for tight ends last season with 11 touchdown receptions.

PREVIOUSLY: Fant sidesteps the hype surrounding him, focuses on blocking

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Tight end: T.J. Hockenson (6-5, 250, Soph.) — A big season could be in store for the Chariton native if Fant receives the lion's share of attention from opposing defenses. Seventeen of his 24 catches last season were for first downs.

Split end: Brandon Smith (6-3, 219, Soph.) — The former Mississippi state high jump champion is making his first start and was one of 10 Iowa true freshmen to see the field last season.

Wide receiver: Nick Easley (5-11, 205, senior) — The 2016 juco all-American from Iowa Western led the Hawkeyes in both receptions (51) and yards (530) in 2017.

ANALYSIS: Will anyone help out the core four wideouts?

Left tackle: Mark Kallenberger (6-6, 282, freshman) — A debut under fire comes for the true freshman, who is playing in place of Alaric Jackson (suspension). His brother Jack is a defensive lineman for the Hawkeyes.

Left guard: Ross Reynolds (6-4, 295, Sr.) — The Waukee native made his only start in last year's opener, although he played in all 13 games a season ago.

MORE: With suspensions in place, opportunity knocks along Hawkeyes' o-line

Center: Keegan Render (6-4, 307, Sr.) — An Indianola product, Render has played in every game since the 2015 opener. He first made the shift to starting at center in 2017.

Right guard: Cole Banwart (6-4, 296, Soph.) — Banwart is making his first career start. He's filling the shoes of Sean Welsh.

Right tackle: Dalton Ferguson (6-4, 308, Sr.) — The Solon walk-on is replacing Tristan Wirfs (suspension following an OWI arrest) to make his first career start. 

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DEFENSE

Left end: Anthony Nelson (6-7, 271, Jr.) — The junior made all the defensive watch lists this preseason, and for good reason following his 6.5-sack effort in 2017.

RELATED: Leistikow's thoughts on Iowa's Week 1 depth chart

Left tackle: Sam Brincks (6-5, 275, Sr.) — The Carroll Kuemper walk-on is receiving his first starting nod in his fifth season in the program. Brincks redshirted in 2014. 

Right tackle: Matt Nelson (6-8, 295, Sr.) — Nelson is at the tackle position full-time this season after making his first start there halfway through the 2017 campaign.

PREVIOUSLY: Rookies stand out on Iowa's defense during Kids Day scrimmage

Right end: Parker Hesse (6-3, 261, Sr.) — Hesse's 35th start in 40 games continues a reliable track record for the Waukon native. He amassed 10.5 tackles for loss in 2017.

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Outside linebacker: Nick Niemann (6-4, 232, Soph.) — One Niemann (Ben, currently fighting for a Kansas City Chiefs roster spot) departs; another enters. Nick saw action in all 13 games last season.

Middle linebacker: Amani Jones (6-0, 238, Jr.) — The junior from Chicago with 10 tackles to his career credit will be making his first start.

MORE: Jones growing into role as MLB but he's not trying to be Jewell

Weak-side linebacker: Kristian Welch (6-3, 238, Jr.) — Another first-time starter, Welch made his first career interception in last year's 56-14 thumping of Nebraska.

Left cornerback: Matt Hankins (6-1, 185, Soph.) — Hankins was the fifth true freshman in the Kirk Ferentz Era to make a start in the secondary (Manny Rugamba, Desmond King, Benny Sapp and Bob Sanders).

PREVIOUSLY: Hankins quietly earning trust as Iowa's latest young starting CB

Strong safety: Amani Hooker (6-0, 210, Jr.) — Fifth on the team in career tackles (56), Hooker is among the leaders in your heart after a pick-six last season against Ohio State.

Free safety: Jake Gervase (6-1, 212, Sr.) — The Davenport Assumption product made 10 starts at the position last year and came away with a trio of interceptions.

Right cornerback: Michael Ojemudia (6-1, 199, Jr.) — All three of his career starts came last season, including in the opener. He has one career pass breakup.

ANALYSIS: A deeper look at the untested members of Iowa's secondary

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SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: Miguel Recinos (6-1, 193, Sr.) — The senior was 11-for-13 on field-goal attempts last season, including a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond 40 yards and a 7-for-8 mark in the fourth quarter.

Punter: Colten Rastetter (6-1, 213, Jr.) — He averaged 37.8 yards on 55 punts last season and has taken the lead in what is now a multiseason battle with Ryan Gersonde.

Kickoff and punt returns: Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6-1, 175, Soph.) — Also a wide receiver, Smith-Marsette caught the game-winning overtime touchdown against Iowa State in last year's Cy-Hawk Game.

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NORTHERN ILLINOIS PROJECTED STARTERS

OFFENSE

Quarterback: Marcus Childers (6-0, 222, Soph.)

Tailback: Marcus Jones (5-8, 199, Jr.)

Tight end: Ty Harmston, 6-4, 258, Sr.)

Wide receiver: Leon Payne (5-10, 174, Fr.)

Wide receiver: D.J. Brown (5-9, 185, Sr.)

Wide receiver: Cole Tucker (6-2, 193, Fr.)

Left tackle: Max Scharping (6-6, 320, Sr.)

Left guard: Christopher Perez, Jr. (6-1, 290, Jr.)

Center: Luke Shively (6-3, 300, Sr.)

Right guard: Nathan Veloz (6-5, 319, Jr.)

Right tackle: Jordan Steckler (6-5, 306, Jr.)

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DEFENSE

Defensive end: Sutton Smith (6-1, 237, Jr.)

Defensive end: Matt Lorbeck (6-3, 247, Soph.) OR Quintin Wynne (6-1, 240, Jr.)

Defensive tackle: Ben Leroy (6-3, 302, Jr.)

Defensive tackle: Weston Kramer (6-1, 292, Soph.)

Outside linebacker: Antonio Jones-Davis (5-11, 226, Soph.)

Outside linebacker: Lance Deveaux Jr. (5-11, 211, Jr.)

Middle linebacker: Kyle Pugh (6-0, 235, Jr.)

Cornerback: Jalen Embry (5-11, 197, Sr.)

Cornerback: Albert Smalls (6-1, 207, Sr.)

Safety: Mykelti Williams (5-11, 208, Jr.)

Safety: Trayshon Foster (6-0, 201, Jr.)

CLOSE

Sports writers Chad Leistikow and Danny Lawhon take a look at the Hawkeyes' season opener against Northern Illinois. Staff Video, The Register

SPECIAL TEAMS

Kicker: Andrew Gantz (5-10, 192, Sr.)

Punter: Matt Ference (5-11, 198, Soph.)

Kickoff returner: D.J. Brown (5-9, 185, Sr.)

Punt returner: Jalen Embry (5-11, 197, Sr.)

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