Iowa CITY, Iowa - The story from Saturday's annual Kids Day at Kinnick Stadium was as much about who didn't practice as who did. Luckily for Iowa, there were three weeks remaining until the season kicked off.
"Where do you want to start?" Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz said after the open workout to benefit the children's hospital.
While Ferentz understandably kept most injury details vague, he did reveal that true freshman defensive back Ruben Lile tore his ACL and will miss the season while redshirting. The Detroit product could have helped on special teams and added depth to the secondary.
The coach also said that often injured offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan fractured his hand. The junior did not participate in Saturday's drills and was expected back at workouts the middle of next week.
"They were doing some good things," Ferentz said. "It's nothing serious. They have a chance on Monday. Its frustrating because you cant evaluate."
"We had two that were significant and will be a while," Ferentz said. "It's one of those deals"
The casualties did not end with the above mentioned players. Also missing from the Kids Day practice were Riley McMinn, Jordan Walsh and Maurice Fleming. The first two guys were listed as second-teamers on the most recent depth chart. Fleming could play as a true freshman.
"We had two pretty good knee sprains, but everything else is bumps and bruises," Ferentz said. "It's frustrating because it makes it hard to make progress and evaluate."
Beyond the injury bug, the Hawkeyes showed definite progress on Saturday from their last open workout in the spring. That said, there's plenty of improvement needing to be made in the next three weeks.
"It's pretty obvious we have a lot of work to do," Ferentz said. "There were some good things but a lot of errors; a lot of work in a lot of areas."
The position that took the biggest step forward since the spring was the defensive line. The front held its own against an Iowa offensive line that should be pretty good in 2012.
"They are doing some good things but we are not there yet," Ferentz said. "Carl (Davis) and Dom (Alvis), they are improving and they have not missed a snap. They will get there but we still have 18 practices left. We will need every bit."
Running back Damon Bullock carried the ball effectively and displayed a good set of hands in the passing game. There also were a few plays where he started in the backfield before motion took him to a wideout spot or into the slot.
"He is improving," Ferentz said. "He still has a lot to work on. He took a good fall (Friday) and landed in a delicate spot and when I went to bed last night, I didn't expect him to be here (Saturday) practicing.
"To his credit he came out and practiced. That is good, that is life as a running back and you get sore. That is a step forward for him. He was out here working."
"We were doing some good things, some good plays in there and a few dumb throws as well," Ferentz said. "Taking the sack when we had a shot at a field goal puts you in a bad situation. We have a lot of things to work on."
Here are some other notes from Saturday:
-John Wienke punted first in that drill with Jonny Mullings going second and true freshman Conner Kornbrath then receiving his turn. None of them were consistently good, but the newcomer looked the best of the trio.
-Defensive line Coach Reese Morgan gave everyone a scare at the end of practice. He was run over by a player on the sideline and remained on the ground for several minutes before trainers got him on his feet.
"It looks like he injured his left leg, maybe tore a hamstring," Ferentz said. "I am guessing."
-Freshman Kevin Buford was installed as the nickel back on Saturday.
-Iowa used a three wide-receiver set with Keenan Davis and Don Shumpert on the outside and Martin-Manley in the slot. Shumpert clearly is the No. 3 wideout at the moment.
-Bigach looked like he made significant strides as a DE. He was much more explosive than I remember him being in the spring.