116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — The lack of normal media availability throughout the pandemic meant there was plenty to learn at Northern Iowa football’s media day on Tuesday.
Here are three things we know now that we didn’t before media day.
1. There is a quarterback competition
After adding Michigan State and Trinity Valley Community College transfers Theo Day and Matt Morrissey to a quarterbacks room featuring two-year starter Will McElvain and well-regarded backup Justin Fomby, Coach Mark Farley said Tuesday there are no starters.
Farley described how having the group of signal-callers compete throughout the next three weeks of preseason camp is what’s best for whoever starts the season-opener at Iowa State on Sept. 4.
Echoing his head coach’s comments, offensive coordinator Shawn Watson noted how important competition at the position will be for the team’s success this season.
“We’re going to make sure that we set things up where we can obviously give the (quarterbacks) each a fair opportunity to show their work,” Watson said. “What they will get from there will be what they earn.
“Because our job then for the team is to make sure we take care of the team by making sure that we get them those reps, those opportunities, then we have to create competition and let the best man win.”
2. Injury update
Farley revealed Tuesday that center Mason Neisen and guard Nick Ellis have received medical hardships.
They’ve been unable to completely recover from injuries and no longer will be able to play.
Starting linebacker Bryce Flater, tight end Jayden Scott and defensive lineman Khristian Boyd have all been cleared to practice, but without contact. All three are likely to be available for the season-opener at Iowa State, but it’s unclear what snap count any could play at this point.
3. 3 new assistant coaches on staff
One of the many challenges throughout playing a spring season amid a pandemic was a university-wide hiring freeze due to financial shortfalls.
That freeze led to a number of FCS programs, UNI included, having coaches on staff in the spring as volunteers.
With the hiring freeze now lifted and replacements needed at running backs and tight ends coach, Farley brought in a pair of familiar faces and another new to the program.
Atif Austin, who began his coaching career at UNI (2005-09), is back as running backs coach after most recently holding the same position at Northern Illinois.
Former Panther and NFL veteran offensive lineman Brandon Keith also is on staff now after volunteering in the spring, as is new tight ends coach Sam McLeran, a North Liberty native who prepped at Iowa City West.