CEDAR FALLS — The final installment of a five-part series featuring Northern Iowa football’s 2019 players of impact doesn’t have a clear choice, but it does have a clear position.
Whoever emerges from UNI’s four-way quarterback competition during fall camp will automatically become one of its five most impactful players this season.
All four candidates that head coach Mark Farley, first-year offensive coordinator Ryan Mahaffey and first-year quarterbacks coach Justin Roper will have to choose from offer intriguing and differing skill sets. Farley described what would ultimately become the deciding factor among the four choices before spring practice.
“It’s who can best fit (the offense), and who’s most efficient. It’s not about age,” Farley said. “I don’t know if fit is the best word, but, who fits the group of offensive players that can be the most dynamic and efficient with (our) offense.”
UNI FOOTBALL PLAYERS OF IMPACT
Will McElvain, Jacob Keller, Nate Martens and Justin Fomby are the Panthers’ four potential signal-callers.
Fomby, a true freshman, is the wild card. He arrived on campus this summer and will hope his strong arm and athleticism can overcome any shortcomings to win the job.
Martens, the other highly-regarded true freshman, was an early enrollee and flashed a big arm and high IQ during spring practices to go along with his college-ready 6-foot-3 220-pound frame.
Keller, a third-year sophomore who was a priority for UNI in its 2016 recruiting class, has traits of a disciplined ball distributor, athleticism, and trust built within the coaching staff
McElvain routinely displayed pocket awareness and play-extending ability in spring practices, as well as a knack for making big plays with the speed to gain yardage via his feet. He routinely practiced as the Panthers’ No. 2 QB last season.
Farley unsurprisingly wasn’t ready to name a starter after the team’s final spring practice, but he did acknowledge there was some separation created in the competition.
“I think you can start to see a little bit of difference in the three of them. Where they’re at after a month of (practices).” Farley said. “I think there’s a 1A and a 1B.”
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Considering Fomby’s long odds as a result of being a true freshman who only recently got on campus, and Martens’ game looking similar to that of the recently-graduated Eli Dunne, McElvain and Keller appear to be the front-runners.
It’s anyone’s guess whether McElvain or Keller has the edge, or if the possibility genuinely exists for either of the two freshmen to win the job. Nonetheless, whoever starts against Iowa State on Aug. 31 will have become a player of impact for UNI.