116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR FALLS — After first uttering the phrase in June during an unveiling ceremony for its new outdoor practice facility, Northern Iowa football coach Mark Farley again said at Tuesday’s media day this is a “new era” for his program and college football.
“What I mean by new era is in college football, college athletics in general, there’s nothing that’s the same,” Farley said. “There’s some new opportunities for players with NIL. There’s just so many things going on that are new. When you get to the football side of it, technically to me it is a new era in football because we need to (reestablish) the standard we believe is what UNI football is.”
Farley and many players spoke about how productive it's been to get back to normalcy. Whether it be practicing again as an entire team instead of split into groups, or simply being able to be around and close to teammates and coaches.
“Where the excitement comes from is when I walked in the room for the first time, even though you knew it was going to happen, there was a full room of people,” Farley said. “We haven’t had that for 18 months where you had 105 guys sitting in a room, shoulder to shoulder, getting ready for one common goal.”
While morale is up, Farley eventually got into the realities of his team and the questions that need answers before the Sept. 4 season-opener at Iowa State.
The 21st-year head coach pointed out the need for improved play at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end after struggling on offense throughout the spring season.
At quarterback, Michigan State and Trinity Valley Community College transfers Theo Day and Matt Morrissey add much more competition to the position. Enough that Farley was noncommittal when asked if two-year starter Will McElvain still possessed that status.
“There’s competition for a reason. Because there’s no starters,” Farley said. “In the same breath, as I told the team and I’m telling you, there’s a first group, second group and a third group. But as I’m going through it, it’s competition that will change many times as we go through the next few weeks.”
Much like quarterback, Farley and his staff made a point to add competition at running back in the offseason. Cal and Saint Xavier transfers Bradrick Shaw and Vance McShane will compete for snaps with returning starters Tyler Hoosman and Dom Williams.
“We have a great group of running backs that came in and I’ve been impressed with all of them,” Hoosman said. “Everyone is slowly progressing every day. I’m just making sure that I’m being a leader and doing everything I can to contribute to the team.”
At wide receiver, UNI will get a boost as Isaiah Weston and Logan Wolf are healthy. Meanwhile, at tight end, Jayden Scott is back after missing last season with an injury, but is currently practicing without contact.
On defense, where the Panthers return all 11 starters, Farley pointed to their pass rush needing to be a group effort as the program works to develop its next Elerson G. Smith — who was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft this spring.
“You can become a great pass rusher through energy, (being) unorthodox, violence and relentlessness just as much as speed and size can,” Farley said. “So it’s how we use that talent (that) will determine how much production we get.”