CEDAR FALLS — Mark Farley is in no hurry with his 2017 Northern Iowa football team’s preparations.
With no more two-a-day practices allowed by the NCAA, Farley has five weeks, 29 practices, to get his Panthers ready for their Sept. 2 season opener against Iowa State at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames.
“Really we are just trying to get the coaches and players acquainted again, and get the players bodies back in form,” Farley said Monday after UNI’s fourth official practice. “We are in no hurry with this extended time. We are still a month away from going to class and we have the time to be more deliberate with our teaching.”
UNI opened practice on July 27th and followed with sessions on the 28th and 29th, before getting Saturday night and all day Sunday to recover.
The NCAA released new recommended practice changes in January that discontinued two-a-days (a second session may include walk throughs or meetings, but no helmets, pads or conditioning), but extended the preseason by one week. It also reduced tackling or thud practices from four to three times a week and implemented a one-day per week without practice guidelines.
“We are going to have to adapt to the length of the camp,” Farley said. “We won’t know what it feels like until the fourth or fifth week as camps used to be 3 1/2, 4 weeks long, and we are in it for five weeks.
“You hope you make a plan ... it’s hard to keep the kind of interest you need for four solid weeks without no school. We don’t want to burn them out, but at the same time we have to get the work in we need to get done.”
Farley says the first four days have been productive with Monday’s nearly three-hour long practice probably the best the Panthers had, which he credits to the nearly day and a half the team had off.
“It’s been good,” senior receiver Daurice Fountain said. “Our bodies are a little sore, but we just have been getting after it. Everything has been going nice and smooth.”
“It has been awesome,” added senior defensive lineman Adam Reth. “It’s a brand new set of guys who are out here working hard and that is all we can do right now is go hard play after play and get better because of that.”
UNI’s practice Monday was outside, but the Panthers have been inside twice on the new UNI-Dome turf that was installed in late spring.
“It is a lot softer than the old turf,” Fountain said. “There is a lot of grip. That is the one thing that I realized is that it is easier to cut and break at sharp angles. I really like it.”
The Panthers did some thud (hitting but no tackling to the ground) late in Monday’s practice, but Farley says while his staff will evaluate the work, the real evaluating will begin taking place later this week.
“Probably Thursday, the day after media day, we will start evaluating them sharper,” Farley said. “Right now it is more OTA’s (organized team activities) where we are doing more teaching, just trying to be sharp and get our work done. We will get more locked in next week.”
Jared farley honored: Senior linebacker Jared Farley has been named a STATS Preseason all-American. He was one of 17 Missouri Valley Conference football players honored.
Farley garnered a team-best 80 tackles in 2016 and was named to the all-MVFC second team.