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Iowa is heading into its bye week this weekend.

A year ago at this time, the Hawkeyes were playing their first game of the season.
It’s a normal conditioning schedule for the Hawkeyes this season, but the crammed calendar of 2020 is still on the mind of strength and conditioning director Raimond Braithwaite.

“A year ago, our first game wasn’t until October 24,” Braithwaite said this week. “So we’re entering some uncharted territory when it comes to our younger, more inexperienced players."

It’s been a light week for the older Hawkeyes after a 6-1 start to the season, but there is work to be done for the more inexperienced players.

And Braithwaite wants them to know the longer season requires some different work.

“We have a group of second-year guys who last year was their first year,” Braithwaite said. “So now they get to this point. A year ago we were just starting our first game. Now this year they have seven games on their back that they didn’t have last year.

"They really didn’t have that experience to fall back on of a full season. Then you fast-forward to these first-year guys, that this is their first year of college football. When you get into early November, typically the high school football seasons are coming to a close. They still have another month of football they have to tend to.”

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The Hawkeyes do have youth at so many key positions this season. True freshman Connor Colby has started on the offensive line. True freshmen Arland Bruce IV and Keagan Johnson have made big plays at wide receiver. Left offensive tackle Mason Richman is a redshirt freshman. Right tackle Nick DeJong is a sophomore. Defensive tackle Logan Lee is a sophomore and fellow defensive tackles Yahya Black and Lukas Van Ness are redshirt freshmen. Linebacker Jestin Jacobs is a sophomore.

That is why this week is important, Braithwaite said. It’s a chance to rest. It’s also a chance for injured players like cornerback Riley Moss to get healthier.

“Our emphasis is on being the strongest, most well-conditioned team in these last five games to finish out the season,” Braithwaite said. “Because it doesn’t matter how strong you are in September and October if you can’t carry that into November.”

The bye week is also a chance for true freshmen and scout-team players to get more work, something Braithwaite said is an ongoing process through the season.

“We see it as a mini-offseason, so their intensity and volume is higher, since they don’t have to be recovered to play on Saturday,” he said.

Braithwaite is also keeping track of how the Hawkeyes are doing off the field after last Saturday’s 24-7 home loss to Purdue that knocked them out of the top 10 in the national rankings.

“One thing about our team that I really appreciate and respect is our consistency,” he said. “These guys are extremely even — never get too high or too low. And I think that’s a reflection of the leadership. They understand that one game doesn’t make the season. There are five games to go, and they could go in a bunch of different directions. The tone and tenor has been extremely consistent.”