CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — University of Northern Iowa kicks off its spring football practice schedule Wednesday as Mark Farley looks ahead to his 13th season as the Panthers’ head coach.
Farley would love to see his luck change in 2013 after UNI went 5-6 last season. And maybe it already has.
The coaching staff was looking for a No. 1 quarterback a year ago and Sawyer Kollmorgen is now the established starter. David Johnson enjoyed a breakout season last fall, and he’ll be a key man in both the rushing and passing games. The receiver corps features plenty of veterans.
Farley suggested that improvements made in the offseason by redshirt freshman Justin Black will lead to some competition at quarterback. He also said Evan Williams, injured for much of 2012, can be in the mix with Johnson in the backfield.
Overall, though, the coach feels Kollmorgen’s experience will pay dividends this spring. The situation is also better on the other side of the football, according to Farley.
“I think we can do more things much more than we did last year because of an established quarterback,” said Farley.
He added, “I think we can do more things on defense now that we’re a little bit more stable with our depth chart than what maybe we were last year at this time because of the guys coming back and the guys that we have here playing for us.
“I feel a little bit better about that. We can be a little more aggressive now.”
This year, there will be a different set of issues. UNI lost veterans like J.J. Swain, Varmah Sonie and Garrett Scott in the secondary. Center Brian Palangi departed. Terrell Sinkfield is no longer a Panther wideout. Kyle Bernard leaves behind a void at punter that likely won’t be filled until fall camp.
There are also new coaches once again. Former All-American Bryce Paup returns to the UNI-Dome to be an assistant in charge of the defensive line. Brandon Lynch will be working with the secondary.
Some other moves have been made with the holdovers. Jeremiah Johnson goes from the secondary to linebackers. Todd Blythe, a volunteer in 2012 who worked with running backs, now has the receivers. Co-offensive coordinator Bill Salmon gets the running backs.
Finally, Scott replaced the helmet with a whistle. He’ll help Johnson with the linebackers as an intern/graduate assistant.
And so it begins. The annual end of this series of workouts, the spring game, is set for April 26.
“Staff-wise, everything is solidified there,” said Farley. “Player-wise, we’ve been with them for a while and we’re ready to go on Wednesday with our first practice.”
PRO DAY SET
UNI will host its annual Pro Day on Wed., March 27, beginning at 8 a.m. in the UNI-Dome.
The Pro Day is open to the media and the public. Media and public seating will be on the west side of the UNI-Dome during the testing. The only individuals allowed on the field are UNI coaches, scouts and participants.
The testing will include three lifts (power/clean, bench press and back squad), 40-yard dash, L-Drill and Pro Agility Drill.