CEDAR FALLS -- Mark Farley knows his University of Northern Iowa football team has made progress during its first six spring practices.
The Panthers' veteran head coach just wishes it could happen faster.
Farley said the results of the teaching from his coaches and the learning from his players has been outstanding on the practice field. At the same time, the overall progress has come in small steps with fewer and fewer players available.
Monday, 12 players who figure to play key roles in 2019 did not practice and Farley does not anticipate any of those 12 returning this spring.
Running back Trevor Allen, wide receiver Isaiah Weston, wide receiver Jalen Rima, center Mason Neisen, offensive lineman Matthew Vanderslice, linebacker Chris Kolarevic, defensive tackle Jared Brinkman and cornerback Isaiah Nimmers had already been ruled out for the spring. Since practice started March 27, UNI has lost linebacker Alfonzo Lambert, wide receiver Nick Fossey, tight end Alex Allen and safety Korby Sander.
"The thing that isn't happening is we can't go very fast, we can't do things very quickly because our numbers are so depleted that we have to give them time between plays," Farley said. "We want to make sure we are out here for 15 practices and doing what we can, but we are really limited with school and injuries right now.
"You push the few we have too much and that causes fatigue. Fatigue creates injury, and we're to the stage they have to be able to understand they have to fight and work through it, but at the same time we have be smart about it."
By the end of Monday UNI had just three wide receivers and three tight ends after a couple of players were told to take the second half off because of minor ailments. There are also only four healthy running backs, and one of those, Alphonso Soko, has an afternoon class that does not allow him to participate fully.
Sander was the latest to fall, suffering a left knee injury last Wednesday. He walked around practice Saturday and Monday with the knee in an immobilizer.
"That is one that will keep getting re-evaluated," Farley said. "It is a kind of wait-and-see basis."
The injury situation is so severe it has affected the status of the spring game. Farley said there will be some kind of spring-ending practice event for fans.
"We won't have a spring game," Farley said. "We are just too depleted. There is just no way you can get a spring game in effectively. We will go back and try to do something to put closure to spring ball, but it won't be a spring game."
As far as the work on the field, Farley said Saturday's practice was very good, and Monday's nearly 2 1/2-hour workout almost as good.
"As far as teaching ... when I say teaching, getting out here and doing it, showing it to them and then doing it again," Farley said. "By going through all the reps as a team there is a lot to show them and it is a lot easier to learn by seeing what you did wrong than always trying to tell them what they did wrong."