CEDAR FALLS — Mark Farley does not have a crystal ball in his office.
But with Farley’s 11th-ranked Northern Iowa football squad coming off a strong two-week stretch leading into its off date, the 19-year head coach is trying to look into the future.
Farley feels he has got a great read on the personnel and team he has, but with two games of film on the current version of the Panthers, UNI’s future opponents are also getting a better read.
Farley addressed the media Monday 48 hours after the Panthers’ 34-14 win over Southern Utah and what the plan was for the team as they work to improve prior to hosting Idaho State on Sept. 21.
“To me, I feel we are in a very good spot with the two games we have played,” Farley said. “Two quality games. A game against a very good opponent in Iowa State and got to have a home game against Southern Utah, a quality opponent.
“We came out of them, except for Briley’s (TE Briley Moore) injury ... we are in a good spot. We can learn from those two games and really address strengths and weaknesses and shore up some loose ends.”
While Farley feels his team’s depth is better than it has been in previous seasons there always seems to be a curve ball thrown when a fastball is expected.
Therefore, the team was in full pads Monday working on those things in addition to creating plans for unforeseen future issues.
It is typically in these off dates/weeks that Farley and his staff tinker with personnel, maybe moving a defensive back to receiver or linebacker to defensive end or tight end to tackle. He will also give true freshman more reps than they’ve gotten previously.
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In two games, UNI has used just three true freshman — kicker Matthew Cook, cornerback Omar Brown and running back Nick McCabe. Farley says the reason for that is he has some more senior players in depth roles than he has had in previous season, but that doesn’t mean all those projected red-shirt players should not be ready to hear their name called in case of emergency.
“This is the week to do it. You play with some things and if it works you run with it,” Farley explained.
Farley further explained by having a defensive back learn receiver or vice versa, if an injury comes down and depth is thin that particular player could step in on three-days notice and it would be recall rather than learning a new position on short notice.
There are also weaknesses that Farley wants to address with players and units he’s been pleased with.
For example, Brown, the Minneapolis native has been solid starting at one corner opposite Roosevelt Lawrence, ranking third on the team in tackles with 20, while also recording two pass breakups and his first career interception against SUU.
With that said, Farley says Brown isn’t a completely polished corner.
“Both teams have went after him significantly and he has held up,” Farley said. “His production, we call it production grade, and his production grade is when a play comes at you and you need to make a play and you make the play. His production grade has been very good for the amount of time he has been attacked on the football field. I’m pleased with that.
“I also know he needs a lot of work, because I know the more he is on the field the more opponents ... they will go after him off of what he is doing on film and if he is not doing things on film, they will see it and go after it. So we got to make sure we continually teach on his errors before he is exposed.”
Farley added his has a big list of similar examples, so while on the schedule it says UNI has an off week, in reality the Panthers will be putting their noses to the grindstone.