CEDAR FALLS - As Mark Farley strode from the practice field Saturday, he heard thunder rumbling from the north.
"The timing's perfect," said Northern Iowa's football coach, grinning.
After all, the Panthers had just finished the afternoon half of their first two-a-days of 2008. Farley and his players got their work done before bad weather moved in.
And, according to Farley, UNI's worked well through a week of camp.
"We've been productive," said the man who's about to begin his eighth season as the leader of the Panthers. "I'm pleased with their sense of workmanship out there. I'll give them that. They came out to work. They're communicating and doing those type of things.
"But we need to, too. We've got a lot to get done in a short period of time."
With the Aug. 30 opener at Brigham Young rapidly approaching, UNI's coaching staff is trying to put the finishing touches on an offensive line hit hard by graduation.
Through the early workouts, said Farley, the Panthers are searching for the right combination. They're also getting people settled into positions. Austin Howard, for example, is making the move from tight end to offensive tackle.
While staying away from listing a starting lineup, Farley said progress has been made.
"I think we're settled in on what side they're playing - left or right," he said. "We're getting comfortable with where they're at now. Injuries dictate that a little bit, but we've been very fortunate. With the speed we're playing at, we've been very fortunate."
Some of UNI's young players have looked good, said Farley, most notably redshirt freshman wide receiver Josh Collins from Sioux City. D.J. Hord, the transfer wideout from Notre Dame, has been a "nice addition," said Farley.
Jerred Herring, the true freshman from Burlington, could get a chance to contribute to the pass catchers in 2008, based on his early performance.
"I don't want to call them a surprise because we knew they were talented," said Farley. "But a pleasant outcome of (camp) has been that our receivers are a very good group of players and they can all catch. They're very talented with speed and athleticism."
As for the older players, Farley said the seniors are providing their own brand of leadership in camp. It's not boisterous, he said. Perhaps it's more of a rumble.
"It's a quiet group with quiet leadership, but it's strong leadership," said Farley. "People may try to test that leadership when they don't hear it, but if they step up at the correct time and keep people accountable, then they're strong leaders. They've done that. That's how you communicate and talk and become a team."
So far, said one of the Panther veterans, the lines of communication are open.
"Around here, it just seems like people really work well together," said junior offensive lineman Jordan Limbaugh. "Everybody is friends. There aren't so many cliques."
Contact Jim Sullivan at (319) 291-1434 or firstname.lastname@example.org