CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa football coach Mark Farley is a fan of the NCAA’s new rule allowing freshmen to play up to four games without losing their redshirt status.
“My first initial thought was the impact on the school,” Farley said. “Had this rule been in place four years ago with this class that just graduated, Daurice Fountain, Jared Farley and Preston Woods would be eligible this year. That’s the type of impact this rule can have on teams going forward.
“It’s a very impactful rule to college football and it’s actually a great rule for the student-athlete.”
Farley also pointed out how the new rule helps the Football Championship Subdivision in particular. With 63 scholarships (compared to the FBS’ 85) and the ability to dress only 58 players for (air travel) road games and 60 for conference home games, Farley is happy to say good riddance to the many tough decisions that arose in previous seasons with regard to gameday depth.
“We need to get all our freshmen in for summer school so we can have them prepared for (fall) camp,” Farley said. “Because we’re going to get to use them. And in particular, in our division, in our league, (the rule) has created depth now that I possibly didn’t have.
“It will be a lot of gamesmanship in the use of this rule.”
UNI's summer program
After finishing 2017 with an 8-5 record and a quarterfinal playoff loss to South Dakota State, Farley is encouraged by the large number of players who have stayed on campus throughout the summer.
“It’s what you hope for as a coach,” Farley said. “Knowing the number of players we have (on campus) it makes you feel good about the culture of our team. It’s the players that are activating this and that’s what gives you strong football teams when this is player driven and not coach driven. Right now the culture here is so good within our team and our program.”
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Even though most Panthers are on campus lifting twice a day, conditioning and leading their own drills, Farley said there’s a lot to accomplish once players report for fall camp on Aug. 2.
“I’m pleased, but there’s a ton of work to do,” Farley said. “Because we’re up against the first game of the season with No. 18 at Montana. Then we’ve got to play Iowa. Then we got No. 1, No. 4, No. 11, and No. 21 are all on our schedule in our league. And that doesn’t include Western Illinois and South Dakota, who were both playoff teams last year. So, we have to prepare for the best there is to play and that’s why we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Panthers kick off their 2018 regular season at 7 p.m. on Sept. 1 in Missoula, Mont., against No. 18 Montana.
UNI injury update
A handful of notable Panthers were “air-only” players during spring drills. Running back Marcus Weymiller (ankle) and offensive linemen Spencer Brown (knee) and Nick Ellis (knee) are on track in their rehabilitation and expected to be ready for the beginning of fall camp.
Weymiller led the Panthers in rushing last season with 809 yards on 200 attempts. Brown rocketed up the depth chart during last season’s fall camp and ultimately started five games at right tackle before losing his season to the knee injury. Ellis made one start at right tackle and is a candidate to start at center this season after the graduation of Lee Carhart.