116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — The return to a normal football calendar is beginning to put things back in place for Northern Iowa.
As a perennial FCS playoff contender, the Panthers have long relied on the development that takes place during spring practices, but the postponement of the 2020 season to the spring of 2021 severely disrupted the development UNI relies on.
“There’s a lot of guys out there that haven’t experienced a real spring, and a real spring is when you get developed,” UNI Coach Mark Farley said. “A lot of guys — particularly the younger group — have never been through this phase which is really the nuts and bolts of everything. We need to get a lot of work done not just on the field, we still need to get stronger in the weight room.”
A notable list of veterans are not participating in spring practices due to injury. Farley named defensive tackle Khristian Boyd, defensive end Devin Rice, wide receivers Logan Wolf and Quan Hampton, safety Korby Sander and linebacker Spencer Cuvelier as out. He also revealed that a lack of secondary and defensive line depth, along with how durable the roster ends up being this spring, will decide the fate of a spring game or scrimmage on Saturday, April 23.
Meanwhile, four transfers — running back Amauri Pesek-Hickson, wide receivers Devell Washington and Desmond Hutson and defensive lineman Cordarrius Bailey — are all participating this spring.
There’s plenty on the players’ proverbial plates over the five-week spring season, but a lot is on Farley’s as he works with six new coaches on staff.
Bodie Reeder — who was at Auburn as an offensive analyst last season and previously was offensive coordinator at Eastern Washington, North Texas and Utah State — will work in tandem with run game coordinator Ryan Clanton and appears poised to make an imprint on UNI’s passing game.
“I’ve known about Bodie for a while,” Farley said. “He has a good concept to fit Ryan Clanton. With Bodie it might be more of an evolution of how to do that (passing game), how to make those reads and keys with the quarterback instead of maybe an older version of it which is a little bit more of a science project, maybe, and takes more time to analytically do it.”
Returning starting quarterback Theo Day continues to get his repetitions as the No. 1 QB, but Farley explained Monday how the circumstances of the pandemic — alongside Day’s and Matt Morrissey’s arrival last offseason — means there will be competition.
“This will give Morrissey a real chance that maybe he didn’t have in the fall, because when Morrissey came in you had to quickly make a choice between Theo and (Morrissey) and Theo won the job, did a good job early and needed to grow through that whole time period,” Farley said. “He needs to grow now. It will be a battle there. Morrissey and Nate (Martens) will get to battle for that position. Theo, a great competitor, will step up to that and get better.”
Randall McCray — who was linebackers coach at Florida International last season, the Arizona Cardinals special teams coordinator from 2018-2020 and has defensive coordinator experience at Texas State, Gardner-Webb and Middle Tennessee — replaces longtime defensive coordinator Jeremiah Johnson.
“I’ve known Randall for years as a person, not a coach,” Farley said. “He’s got great experience. What I like about him is he has the same verbiage, the same background similar to mine where it can be a quick relationship of what I believe and what he’s done fit.”
Along with Reeder and McCray, Griffin McCarley (linebackers), Drew Tate (tight ends), Deiondre Hall (cornerbacks) and Benny Sapp II (secondary) round out the new staff members.