Cole Bair, correspondent
CEDAR FALLS — When Northern Iowa football’s preseason camp begins Thursday, it will look different than it has in previous seasons.
For starters, it’s beginning in January and not August since the Football Championship Subdivision postponed its 2020 fall season to this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most importantly, though, the second and third teams that back up Mark Farley’s starters on offense and defense will get close to equal practice reps as the starters in camp, given the likelihood of roster turmoil the Panthers could encounter due to the ongoing pandemic.
“Depth is a concern because we’ve lost guys that have graduated, guys that have gone on to the NFL Draft, then you also don’t have your influx of new freshmen yet,” Farley said. “The entire roster has to be ready to play.”
Farley confirmed Wednesday that wide receiver Logan Wolf and offensive lineman Nick Ellis will not participate in preseason camp and are likely out for the entire spring season.
UNI will also finally be confronted with finding replacements for All-America defensive end Elerson Smith, All-America offensive lineman Spencer Brown, All-America defensive back Xavior Williams and inside linebacker Chris Kolarevic, all of whom departed after the postponement of the FCS season.
“What became clear is the team is more important than the talent,” Farley said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that I learned from our own team as much as watching others. We got to actually see that team can overcome talent. When this is all done, I think that what we’ll all see in the end is the best teams will be there in the end.”
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Farley said he and his staff paid close attention to how FBS teams handled adversity this fall brought on by COVID-19. He is also optimistic that this spring can be a benefit to the FCS.
“We’re the only show,” Farley said. “There’s challenges, but man, we’re the only division playing this spring. I think that’s another huge opportunity. So we just have to find a way to get a lot of positive excitement, because there is that from this. Instead of looking at the negatives, there’s a lot of positives to it.”