UNI Panthers

UNI football updates: QB competition progresses, defensive backs emerging

True freshman Omar Brown expected to contribute right away on defense

Northern Iowa quarterbacks Justin Fomby (11), Will McElvain (13) Jacob Keller (15) and Nate Martens (14). (The Gazette)
Northern Iowa quarterbacks Justin Fomby (11), Will McElvain (13) Jacob Keller (15) and Nate Martens (14). (The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa football coach Mark Farley is pleased with the progress his team has made with over a dozen fall camp practices complete.

“We looked at it last night and feel good that we got the evaluation (we do),” Farley said. “We know who’s consistently doing things right. Who’s catching on maybe a little faster than others, and then what can we do with them? To that regard I think we’re on schedule.”

UNI’s quarterback competition continues to lean toward returnees Will McElvain and Jacob Keller. Farley told The Gazette reps were equal among the QBs this week, adding that to get all four snaps they had threes and fours on one practice field and ones and twos on another for 11-on-11 drills.

The QB competition will see its biggest change in the upcoming week. The Panthers held a closed scrimmage Saturday and will begin shifting reps toward the favorites, Keller and McElvain, on Monday.

Quarterbacks coach Justin Roper said all four of the QBs have come a long way since the first week of camp. Asked about the two favorites, he praised Keller’s work in the weight room over the summer while pointing out an aspect of his game they’re focused on.

“He’s more comfortable now than he was in the spring as far as what he’s doing in his reads and just being decisive on where he’s going and getting off of something if he doesn’t like it,” Roper said. “The thing we’re still working on with him is working through our read zones — working through what we’re doing on the perimeter as far as bubble routes and quick-type throws and getting his footwork in place so he can get the ball there.”

Speaking on McElvain, Roper had a unique way of describing the challenge of refining a QB that has a penchant for looking to make big plays.

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“In the last four, five days he’s really taken some good strides as far as thinking about long-term decisions over a game rather than ‘what can I do on this play?’” Roper said. “He and I talked more about, ‘you’re a General, not a Cowboy.’ Cowboys just do — they’re thinking about themselves and they can do some great things, but generals have to think about the war (and) long-term strategy.”

Farley and defensive coordinator Jeremiah Johnson continue to evaluate who the best five will be in the secondary. The Panthers spent time during Thursday’s practice on their nickel and dime packages and newcomers Spencer Perry, Micah Mayberry and Omar Brown were among the first group with Perry working inside at the nickel.

Brown, a true freshman from Minneapolis, has impressed Farley.

“Omar Brown will contribute. I’ll tell you that right now,” Farley said. “He doesn’t tell us how good he is, he just goes out and produces every day. Those kinds of guys make it.”

Xavior Williams, Alfonzo Lambert, and Skyler Meyers were held out of Thursday’s practice with minor injuries. Briley Moore was in pads for the first time Thursday since suffering a minor hamstring injury earlier in camp.

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