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Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley talks about managing his emotions on Senior Day and what he remembers about his first "swarm" onto Kinnick Stadium: Mark Emmert, memmert@gannett.com

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IOWA CITY, Ia. — Two of Iowa's established football pieces could be back sooner than later. 

Wide receiver Brandon Smith and cornerback Michael Ojemudia are "moving in the right direction" and are expected to play in some capacity Saturday against Illinois, Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. 

Minus a one-play appearance against Minnesota, Smith (ankle) has been sidelined since going down against Purdue on Oct. 19. Ojemudia got dinged up against Wisconsin and missed last week's 23-19 victory over the previously unbeaten Golden Gophers.

"It's encouraging both are back working," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said at Tuesday's press conference. "Hopefully, they'll be able to play at least partially on Saturday. We'll see how the rest of the week goes, but it's encouraging from that standpoint."         

Smith was rolling along before going down. He combined for 16 catches for 192 yards and a touchdown in the Penn State and Purdue games.

"He's eager to go," Ferentz said. "He's got fresh legs. We plan on playing him. I just don't know how much."  

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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