UNI Panthers

UNI football's 2019 players of impact: LB Chris Kolarevic

Panthers hope for a big year from him after injury-shortened breakout season in 2018

Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mekhi Sargent (10) is tackled by Northern Iowa Panthers linebacker Chris Kolarevic (48) in the first quarter at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game with UNI at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.  (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mekhi Sargent (10) is tackled by Northern Iowa Panthers linebacker Chris Kolarevic (48) in the first quarter at an Iowa Hawkeyes football game with UNI at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

CEDAR FALLS — Northern Iowa’s four-way quarterback battle continues to dominate the conversation surrounding its 2019 team.

However, a similar situation is playing itself out on UNI’s defense with a competition at middle linebacker.

Chris Kolarevic, Bryce Flater and Iowa Central transfer Spencer Cuvelier are in the mix to become the Panthers’ next quarterback of the defense, but Kolarevic is the proverbial clubhouse favorite, and for good reason.

“He made a lot of plays for us (while) we had him,” UNI linebackers coach D.J. Vokolek said earlier this spring on the On UNI Podcast. “He wants to be good. He’s always asking questions. He wonders why we do some of the things we do and he wants to know everything that’s going on around him. Which I like that. He wants to learn the whole defense and how everything fits.”

UNI football players of impact

DB Xavior Williams

OL Spencer Brown

TE Briley Moore

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The Traverse City, Mich., native suffered a season-ending leg injury six games into what had become a breakout 2018 season. As a redshirt freshman, Kolarevic was leading UNI with 65 tackles. He also contributed four pass breakups, three tackles for loss and one interception in his injury-shortened season.

When you combine Kolarevic’s production with Vokolek’s description of his eagerness to learn, it’s easy to understand why he can be a player of impact for the Panthers this fall.

“We’re hoping that we can get him healthy and get him back and ready to go in the fall because, again, with Bryce Flater and Chris Kolarevic they’re really the two guys that have the most snaps in the group and have the most experience,” Vokolek said.

UNI has built depth at linebacker over the past few recruiting cycles, so if Kolarevic has a setback or isn’t game-ready for the opener against Iowa State on Aug. 31 it won’t be a worst-case scenario. However, while he and Flater both have game experience, Kolarevic holds the advantage in the number of snaps he played in 2018, and Cuvelier will be in his first season of head coach Mark Farley and defensive coordinator Jeremiah Johnson’s intricate schemes.

After being seen throughout the spring still utilizing a knee scooter, a source told The Gazette recently that Kolarevic will be ready for fall camp.

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