UNI Panthers

UNI football media day: Updates on left tackle, linebacker, safety and more

Quarterback gets the most headlines, but there are position battles underway elsewhere, too

Northern Iowa's Joe Friedrich (93) looks at his phone as he waits during Media Day for the UNI football at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Wednesday, August 7, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Northern Iowa's Joe Friedrich (93) looks at his phone as he waits during Media Day for the UNI football at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls on Wednesday, August 7, 2019. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — While the quarterback competition continues to dominate the headlines for the Northern Iowa football team, there was plenty of other new information that came from Coach Mark Farley at Wednesday’s media day.

Besides QB, other notable position battles include left tackle, linebacker and boundary safety.

Offensive line coach Ryan Clanton spoke this spring about moving junior lineman Spencer Brown from right tackle to left. Farley, however, revealed Wednesday that Brown is staying at right tackle while Trevor Penning and Matthew Vanderslice are competing at left tackle.

Elsewhere on offense, sophomore wide receiver Deion McShane told The Gazette he’s been practicing at positions other than slot receiver.

“I expect to move around the field knowing that I’m on kickoff return and punt return,” McShane said. “Hopefully I can get to play the outside receiver spot a little more, and hey, I’ll take a little (time at) running back if I have to. I’ve done a little (practicing) at running back — running routes out of the backfield.”

At middle linebacker, Chris Kolarevic, who was playing at an all-conference level before losing his 2018 season to injury (foot) in the sixth game, is not fully cleared to practice. Farley said Kolarevic will get another checkup in two weeks and could be available at that point.

With Kolarevic’s status up in the air, Farley built additional depth at the position with a few roster additions before fall camp, but early enrollee Spencer Cuvelier — a transfer from Iowa Central — is the frontrunner to start at middle linebacker.

“I don’t even know if I want to say any names to (the competition) right now because they’re moving around, but it’s a lot stronger (competition) than what I thought it was going to be five days into camp,” Farley said. “Spencer Cuvelier has really improved over the summer since the spring.”

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Zac Kibby, Jevon Brekke and South Alabama transfer Spencer Perry are in a tight competition at boundary safety, according to Farley and defensive coordinator Jeremiah Johnson.

Farley likes how competitive Kibby and Brekke have been.

“Zac Kibby is playing (boundary safety) right now,” Farley said. “(We’re) kind of figuring out where (Spencer) belongs throughout the first five days. Good player.

“Jevon Brekke took his game to another level because of that move (to safety), I really think. In fact, he’s played to a level I think he could win the spot.”

Farley also mentioned kicker Sam Drysdale continues to be sidelined with an injury he suffered in the spring and is questionable for the beginning of the season. Tight end Briley Moore has been dealing with a mild hamstring injury early in camp, but said it’s been a positive in the sense of getting extra reps for the younger guys at the position.

Farley feels most comfortable with defensive tackle.

“I’d probably start on defense with the two tackles right now. (Jared) Brinkman and (Tim) Butcher,” Farley said. “Just two hard-nosed, bull-charging tackles. Those two really have put a personality into the defensive front.”

After playing a 3-3-5 defense for much of last season, Farley said Brinkman and Butcher’s production and health put the defense at its best for 2019 in a four-man front.

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