CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa’s passing game had somewhat of a renaissance last season, totaling 3,063 yards, its most since 2005. And as one might expect ,UNI’s wide receivers played a large role in the passing game’s turnaround. They provided their production under the guidance of first-year coach Pat McCann.
Now in his second season at UNI, the Western Washington graduate is leading a group of young, talented receivers.
“We do have a lot of talent at receiver,” McCann said. “(Quarterback) Eli Dunne has looked really sharp. He’s impressive. So, to me, the biggest thing for us to take the next step as an offense is we’ve got to produce at the wide receiver position. I’m really optimistic about the offense. We’ve been working hard. Now we’ve got to make plays.”
Injuries have played a modest role this spring for McCann and his wide receivers. Jaylin James injured his hand and is out for the remainder of the spring. James’ injury, along with some other nicks and bumps have forced younger receivers into action, something McCann thinks will benefit the group come the fall.
“We’ve had a chance to see some guys get some opportunities and kind of demonstrate that they’re guys that can make plays for us in the fall,” McCann said. “I’m really optimistic about the group. I think Terrell Carey has probably had — I don’t want to say the best spring — but he’s been probably the most improved player in the receiver group from the course of January to now. Another one I’d say has had a nice spring is Aaron Graham.”
The graduation of Daurice Fountain left a large hole at the position, but according to McCann, James hasn’t shied away from the challenge of wanting to be the new No. 1, revealing that the two talked about his high expectations for 2018 at Saturday’s practice.
“He feels like he had an OK freshman (year) and an OK sophomore year,” McCann said. “He knows what he needs to work on to have a big year, but at the same time, there’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s going to do the work he needs to do to improve on those things.”
McCann hearing 3rd or 4th round for Fountain
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Fountain has worked out for a number of NFL teams ahead of the April 26 Draft. After a senior season with 66 catches, 943 yards and 12 touchdowns the Wisconsin native brought another boost to his draft stock last month with his Pro Day performance. Now, just days away from the NFL Draft, his former position coach is eager to hear his former pupil’s name called in Dallas. So much so he might see if the UNI-Dome’s video board would play the Draft during Saturday’s spring game, which falls when Fountain is likely to be selected.
“We talk pretty frequently,” McCann said. “My biggest thing that I told him is, one, it’s grueling, but you’ve got to enjoy the process because a year ago you would have killed to be doing this.”
With personal friends in the NFL, McCann says he’s got a few teams in mind that he thinks would be the best fits for Fountain.
“There’s actually probably three or four teams where I think just knowing Daurice and knowing what I think will help make him tick, there’s a few places in particular where I know that’s a great situation for him. It’s funny, my dad keeps saying, ‘I hope the Seahawks draft him.’ I want him to go to the place where he’s going to be successful.”