CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- The shuttle keeps on rolling.
As Northern Iowa finished its first full week of spring football, a couple of departures were easy to spot. Veterans like running back Carlos Anderson and cornerback Varmah Sonie, to name two, have used up their eligibility. Jared Lanpher, once considered to be a contender to start at quarterback, has transferred to Central Missouri, a Division II program.
Asked about the absence of Anderson and Sonie, two of UNI’s more vocal players in recent years, head coach Mark Farley said, “It’ll be different. No question it’ll be different.”
Then there some arrivals - the Panthers who are returning to duty in some form after injuries benched them for the 2012 season. Linebacker Max Busher is back on the field. Another linebacker, Zach Cutkomp, has been participating in some drills this spring, although he has been kept away from contact.
“We’ve had some surgeries, but guys are out here running around,” said Farley. “They’re limited with what they can do, yet they’ve got pads on. They need to get through that phase of rehab -of actually being on the field. They should be ready to go by fall.”
Meanwhile, the process of assembling a team for 2013 continues. UNI has 11 practices left this spring, with the last one being the April 26 spring game at 6:30 p.m.
Through the first four workouts, Farley has seen the Panthers performance flare, then flicker, then flare.
“We had two really good days, then we didn’t come out with a lot of intensity,” said Farley at midweek. “Today was a lot better intensity - a lot better attitude. People are moving around and good collisions are going on.”
Beyond the physical work, Farley also wants his football team to gain a stronger grasp of the game’s other components - the mental and emotional phases.
“This is the most valuable time for this team,” he said. “With the youth of this team and the players coming back from last year, they played without a lot of experience. Now they’ve got a little bit of experience, and we’ve got spring ball to correct them.
“We’ve got to get them to understand what toughness is, what attitude is and teaching the intangibles. The plays they’ll figure out, but the intangibles come from within.”
At some spots, just who will be running those plays is a question still waiting to be answered.
Sawyer Kollmorgen is solid as the No. 1 quarterback. Without Lanpher, who completed 33 of 62 passes in relief of Tirrell Rennie and Kollmorgen, the backup job will go to either junior Stephen Kaiser or freshman Justin Black.
“It’s an important time for them,” said Farley. “Kaiser is much better already just because he’s been through this a little bit, so it’s his second round. He’s got a good arm.
“It’s Justin’s first time, just his first spring and his first reps because of being a ...freshman. Kaiser is just more comfortable because he’s had some spring balls underneath his belt. Now we’ve got to get him comfortable at UNI.”
Farley does have some Panthers on the roster who played last season, most notably No. 1 safety Deiondre’ Hall. The process of filling the gaps left by the departure of Sonie, J.J. Swain and Garrett Scott goes on.
“First we have to identify who (the replacements) will be and that will take some time,” said Farley. “The No. 1 thing I’m looking at his who can cover some ground, who is tough enough to come up and make a hit, who’s got the courage to do what we ask them to do.
“I think we’ll be smart enough to get them lined up. Now we’ve got to find the ones who want to be out there and play with the intensity we need to play with.”
When somebody suggested to Farley that Hall looked feisty during practice, the UNI coach grinned.
“We need feisty,” he said.