116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — There’s no debate that Northern Iowa has as good a collection of talent at wide receiver as any FCS team right now.
The group’s success was limited this spring, though. Injury at the position, and COVID-19 protocols that shook up both quarterback and offensive line, affected the group’s ability to produce.
Headed into 2021, UNI’s wide receivers are healthy. Combine that health with second-year position coach Joe Ganz’s experience and expectations are high.
“I think the biggest thing that we came away with in the spring was we found some players that either were young or haven’t had a lot of experience playing and they stepped up and made really big plays,” Ganz said. “The biggest thing for me coming in was making sure I set the culture and attitude of the room that I wanted.”
Isaiah Weston leads UNI’s wide receivers headed into this season. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior led the FCS in 2019 with 24.5 yards per catch after racking up 1,053 yards and 10 touchdowns in 43 receptions.
Weston was limited with multiple ailments this spring, but he’s healthy again and has been working to add to his skill set.
“We changed some things in terms of his offseason lifting and running regimen and stretching, yoga-type stuff to try and alleviate some of those injuries that he had,” Ganz said. “A lot of (the injuries) were bad luck. The biggest thing I’ve worked with Isaiah on is just his overall route-running ability.”
While Weston gives the Panthers a big-bodied target who can take the top off a defense with long-stride speed, Deion McShane and Quan Hampton — listed at 5-foot 9 and 5-foot-10, respectively — have proven themselves capable of creating separation in tight spaces and making circus catches.
McShane enters 2021 having averaged just shy of 27 receptions the past three seasons.
Hampton, meanwhile, made an immediate impact this spring after transferring from Kansas. The Texas native led UNI with 32 catches and 356 yards and was also a factor in the return and run game.
“It was easy for Quan because of his work ethic,” Ganz said. “(And) it always helps when you make plays on the field to back it up.”
Logan Wolf enters 2021 with as much or more potential as any receiver the Panthers have. The Cedar Falls native ramped up his snap count throughout the spring season as he built trust in his surgically-repaired shoulder.
Wolf flashed in 2019 as a true freshman — playing just four games to maintain his redshirt status — with a game-high 82-yard performance in a win against Western Illinois, highlighted by a 61-yard touchdown reception.
“He’s right there,” Ganz said. “I think (people) saw a glimpse of (his potential) when we played North Dakota State of how big of a factor he can be. The great thing about Logan is he’s so football intelligent that he can play all four spots at wide receiver. So, we’ve utilized him at creating different matchups.”
With preseason camp less than two weeks away, Ganz’s optimism for the Panthers offense in year two under offensive coordinator Shawn Watson — his former offensive coordinator when he was Nebraska’s starting quarterback from 2007-2008 — is built on his belief in the system, along with a return to mostly normal preseason circumstances.
“The amount of little tweaks and little changes that we can do to the different schemes, the different formations and all that stuff where they have a good understanding of conceptually what we’re trying to teach them, now they can just plug in and play all these different spots,” Ganz said. “You saw a little bit of it in the spring. There’s a lot more that is out there for this offense and I think that’s the exciting part.”