Kirk Ferentz is impressed with the breakthrough that Lovie Smith has achieved in Year 4 at Illinois, and also tells some senior stories. Hawk Central


IOWA CITY, Ia. — One of Iowa’s two key injured players is back; the other seems unlikely to play Saturday against Illinois.

Hawkeyes cornerback Michael Ojemudia went through pregame warmups and is active for the 11 a.m. kickoff. Meanwhile, wide receiver Brandon Smith (ankle) is “doubtful,” per Iowa sideline reporter Rob Brooks.

Aside from Smith’s one-play cameo, both players missed last Saturday’s 23-19 win over Minnesota. Ojemudia was originally dinged up at Wisconsin. Smith has been sidelined since going down on Oct. 19 versus Purdue.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that both players were “moving in the right direction” and had a chance to be available against the Fighting Illini. Ojemudia, who went through warmups with the first-team defense, seemingly progressed better throughout the week than Smith.

The emergence of Tyrone Tracy Jr. allows Iowa to be more cautious with Smith. And if Ojemudia struggles or the Hawkeyes don’t want to overload him with a hefty workload, cornerback Riley Moss should be ready to slide in when needed.    

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