116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — After a dose of Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley last week during the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s media day, the Panthers coach spoke at length Wednesday in what was his 22nd team media day, but first in the program’s new team meeting room.
“First off I wanted to bring (media day) over here,” he said. “I know they announced it (in the McLeod’s Alumni Suite), but we want to be in our building with our program sitting here in the UNI-Dome and this is the first time in all the years I’ve ever been here as a player, coach or anything that we get to be in our building with this team room.”
It quickly became obvious just how welcome the new team room and outdoor practice facility is for players and coaches.
“Number one — recruiting,” co-offensive coordinator Bodie Reeder said. “You can bring kids on campus and this is a big-time facility in the UNI-Dome and we have a big-time facility outside and we can compete with just about anybody on our level for (recruits).”
Offense features QB competition, plenty of returning starters
Reeder, who also is the Panthers quarterbacks coach, is at the center of the decision of whether returning starter Theo Day or backup Matt Morrissey will start the season opener at Air Force on Sept. 3.
“They’re competing and doing a really good job. Their ability to pick up the offense has been impressive,” Reeder said. “Just got to find the guy who’s going to take care of the ball and move us down the field and score points.”
While who starts at quarterback is unsettled for now, Farley said UNI will put together its first depth chart after a scrimmage on Saturday. Barring injury or an epically bad performance in that scrimmage, all signs point to Day.
“I’m a lot more comfortable now than I was a year ago at this time,” Day said. “I feel like just being here for a year and being around the same people has really helped me out.”
Beyond quarterback there are plenty of returning starters.
Wide receivers Quan Hampton, Deion McShane and Logan Wolf are healthy. Minnesota transfer Peter Udoibok has quickly entered the mix, according to Farley.
Jared Penning and Justin Peine return at left and right guard respectively, while Erik Sorensen returns at center. Senior Matthew Vanderslice is at left tackle after Trevor Penning’s departure to the NFL and right tackle will come down to whether Nick Ellis’ health allows him to compete with Tristan Roper.
Dom Williams and Vance McShane will carry the bulk of the duties out of the backfield while Jayden Scott, Alex Allen and Lance Pryor are the top three tight ends.
Farley pointed out Eastern Illinois transfer running back Harrison Bey-Buie, a Bettendorf grad, has stood out early in the battle to be the third running back.
“He showed up (Tuesday) when we went live because he’s thick, he’s strong,” Farley said. “You better have both shoulder pads buckled up if you hit him.”
Defense has battles on multiple levels
Defensively, senior linebackers Spencer Cuvelier and Bryce Flater arguably represent the MVFC’s best tandem at the position.
Among what’s unsettled on the Panthers defense is a second starting interior lineman.
Defensive ends Caden Houghtelling and Devin Rice are emerging talents, proven by second team All-MVFC preseason honors. Tackle Khristian Boyd has returned to full health and is knocking off some rust in camp, according to position coach Bryce Paup.
Dylan Boles, Iowa State transfer Cordarrius Bailey and redshirt freshman Jack Kriebs are competing to start alongside Boyd.
“I think Jack Kriebs could step in and do really well this year,” Paup said. “(Bailey) is picking up our defense and I think he’ll be a big factor for us as well. Boles’ technique has gotten a lot better and he’s really strong — just hoping that he keeps progressing also.”
Woo Governor and Stefan Black have practiced as first-team cornerbacks since spring ball, as have Benny Sapp III and Jevon Brekke at safety. At nickelback, Farley revealed sophomore Edwin Dearman has all but solidified himself at the position. Five upperclassman transfers in the defensive backfield represent serious challengers for playing time, however.
“They’re all good. That’s why they’re here,” Farley said. “When I go to a board in a room, I’m looking at one through 108. You’ve got to get your best 11 on the field.”