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Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz proactively addressed some of his postgame comments regarding the deployment of Iowa tight end Noah Fant, then took questions. Hawk Central

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — It didn’t take long for Kirk Ferentz’s Tuesday press conference to hop back into the Noah Fant discussion.

The usage and playing time of Iowa’s all-American tight end was arguably the top storyline from Saturday’s 14-10 loss at Northwestern. Fant had one catch for zero yards on three targets while playing just nine second-half snaps.

“As you can well imagine, our first goal as a team is to win,” Ferentz said about personnel decisions. “And our secondary goals are to score points offensively and stop points on the defensive side. We spend a lot of time evaluating our team, looking at our team, watching them — and then week-to-week trying to figure out what gives us the best chance to do those two things and obtain those two goals.

“And it’s a little bit complex, knowing your personnel and trying to match your opponents’ anticipating things they’re going to give you. So depends on the plan. Injury situations of players also factor into it a little bit. Then most importantly once you get to the game, how the opponent chooses to attack you from there. Lot of things that go into it, and a lot of it’s reactionary and kind of work from there."

Ferentz was later directly asked about Fant’s usage.

“He and T.J. (Hockenson) are out there together at times,” Ferentz said. “They’re out there separately at times. And if they are out separately, the lean is to T.J. probably because he’s a little bit more versatile as a tight end. I compare Noah to more of a specialist position. And nonetheless, he’s an outstanding football player, and we’ve tried to get him the ball. We’ll continue to try to get him the ball.

“Nothing really looked good last Saturday, quite frankly. Offensively, there wasn’t much we did with consistency. So we went back and looked at everything certainly. We’ll try to keep him involved and get him involved. He’s a good football player. We’re going to be a better team if we can get him the ball.”

Ferentz was then asked if Fant’s lack of usage was related to a character problem of any sort.

“I can assure you that’s not an issue,” he said. “Noah’s a high-character guy. He’s been tremendous with us. He’s a great kid. There’s no issues there at all. That’s hardly the deal.”

Lingering injuries

Ferentz said wide receiver Brandon Smith should be able to go Saturday at Illinois after missing the Northwestern game. Smith took a hard shot at the end of the Purdue matchup that kept him sidelined.

Meanwhile, Nate Stanley (thumb) is “doing better”, per Ferentz. Iowa’s quarterback has been battling the thumb issue since the Penn State loss.

“I don’t know if he’s 100 percent,” Ferentz said, “but he’s certainly doing better and doing fine. Threw the ball well today and yesterday.”

Wide receiver Max Cooper is out for the year after suffering a season-ending injury Saturday, Ferentz said.

Saturday's captains

Ferentz announced Parker Hesse, Nate Stanley, Jake Gervase and Keegan Render as captains when the Hawkeyes play at Illinois this Saturday. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m.

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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