CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa running back Tyler Hoosman is ready to be one of the Panthers’ featured ball-carriers this season.
The redshirt junior’s 2019 season featured a climb up the depth chart that went from not playing in UNI’s first two games to becoming its second-leading rusher at season’s end.
Even more impressive was Hoosman’s ability to put up those numbers despite suffering an ankle injury late in the season which forced him to miss five of the last six games.
So, headed into this spring season, he has rehabbed and honed his game, knowing big opportunity lies ahead.
“(Getting injured) is just part of the game of football,” said Hoosman, from Plainfield, Ill. “I’ve always had to prove myself in life and just facing adversity in general is something that I’ve always had to overcome. I think, from how well I did early on in the season, I did make a little name for myself. I’ve worked on my explosiveness in the offseason and a big thing I focused on is pass protection, as well.”
Beyond being more comfortable in the role as a main contributor out of the backfield, Hoosman says the entire offense has reached a new comfort level.
Offensive coordinator Ryan Mahaffey is entering his second season as play-caller, quarterback Will McElvain is entering his second season as the starter, and the addition of veteran offensive assistant Shawn Watson to the staff has added to the unit’s attack.
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“This is the first year I’ve felt probably the most comfortable I’ve felt with the offense and comfortable with guys like Will and the coaching staff that we have,” Hoosman said. “I think Watson brings in a lot of great and new tactics we can use throughout (the season) in games.”
With No. 5 South Dakota State up first for the third-ranked Panthers in an eight-game, conference-only regular season, Hoosman says the physicality of their rivalry games with the Jackrabbits is likely to be a test for both team’s bodies as they play their first game in 14 months.
“I think our bodies are going to be in for a little rude awakening, just because none of us are really used to getting tackled right now and experiencing those full blows,” Hoosman said. “But, I’m sure after we’ll get adjusted to it — (and) I know it helped a lot to see other teams that played in the fall and how they adjusted. That kind of gave us an advantage.”
UNI kicks off against South Dakota State at 7 p.m. Friday at the UNI-Dome (ESPN+).