CEDAR FALLS - Northern Iowa's football program added some brains, some brawn and invested in some insurance Wednesday.

In other words, it was a typical signing day for head coach Mark Farley and his Panther staff.

As expected, UNI added 20 players, including 13 Iowans. They will join four transfers who have already enrolled in school to make up the Class of 2005.

"Things went very well," Farley said Wednesday night. "I feel like we addressed our needs for both the short-term and the long-term of our program.

"The first thing we wanted to do was solidify some positions not so much for next season, but for the following year because of graduation. That's why we took three tight end-type players, and we also took three fullback-linebacker types.

"But we also have a need next season in some backup roles as much as we'll have the following year in some starting roles."

Players like Josh Mahoney of Sioux Falls, S.D., and James Ruffin of Burnsville, Minn., will have an opportunity to compete for playing time at fullback.

Codie Fetters of Eldora-New Providence, a 4.0 student, could work his way onto the depth chart at center.

"He reminds me so much of what Brad Meester was as a high school player," said Farley. "That's always been our livelihood, developing those kinds of players."

Nate Rausa of Waterloo Columbus gives UNI some insurance at the placekicker position.

"Brian Wingert is our kicker, but Nate gives us that ability should something happen to Brian," Farley explained. "Two years ago, Brian Stegall blew his quad in the third game of the season. Fortunately, we had Wingert. We needed to get that second kicker on campus again."

It was also important, Farley added, to add some experience at positions where injuries can be devastating. That's why the Panthers went after Scottsdale Community College quarterback Dexter Hill, a third-team National Junior College Athletic Association All-American.

That's also why Farley will give Division I-A transfers Hakim Hill and David Horne a chance to run the football at UNI, along with two-year starter Terrance Freeney.

"I learned from our Oklahoma State game a couple of years ago when Richard Carter (tailback) hurt his ankle," said Farley. "It changes things. Last year when Tom Petrie (quarterback) broke his collarbone … you just can't change your game plan that quickly.

"You need depth as much as you need talent. You don't want to be one injury away from changing the whole complexion of your team."

Both Hill (Arizona State) and Horne (Nebraska) have dealt with some problems away from football recently.

"They both have one season left, and we believe they are here for the right reasons," said Farley. "We hope they will focus their energies on working toward graduation and finding a role on our football team."

Jamie Goodwin, one of the top sprinters in the Mid-America Conference when he was at Akron, will add more speed to the receiving corps while Farley hopes Ryan Schuler, a former blue-chip recruit at Nebraska, has put leg surgery behind him and is ready to realize his considerable potential. The 6-foot-8, 285-pound offensive lineman has four years of eligibility remaining.

"He's been cleared to play," said Farley. "Now he's working on getting his academics caught up because he missed a lot of class time with the surgery and everything."

UNI's other transfer is Iowa Central Community College linebacker Dave Schratz, a first-team, all-region player a year ago when he led his team with 121 tackles.

As far as the prep recruits, Farley is excited about Sioux City Heelan quarterback Patrick Grace.

"I'm excited to have another quarterback with a linebacker mentality," he said. "That's what was so impressive about Eric Sanders last year, watching how he handled the situations we put him in as a redshirt freshman and that leadership mentality. That's what we see in Pat Grace."

UNI also scored three talented tight ends from within the state in Sam Peterson of Cedar Falls, Joel Gilson of Urbandale and Austin Howard of Davenport Central.

"Those are 6-4, 6-5 guys who could be 250-plus and are very athletic," said Farley. "Those guys could play a lot of positions.

"It's been a good day."

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