CEDAR FALLS — Five days into preseason practice Northern Iowa football coach Mark Farley says he has a better understanding of personnel in camp.
Over the next two weeks as the Panthers begin preparations for their 2019 season opener at Iowa State on Aug. 31, Farley and his staff will begin mold that personnel into the team he wants to put on the field.
While Farley has a stronger grasp on his personnel, especially with his five quarterbacks — senior Christian Ellsworth, sophomore Jacob Keller, redshirt freshman Will McElvain and true freshmen Nate Martens and Justin Fomby — he and offensive coordinator Ryan Mahaffey haven’t named a starter, yet.
That will probably come as a big disappointment to state media who convened at the UNI-Dome today for the Panthers annual media day.
“That might be the only question I get asked tomorrow,” laughed Farley Tuesday after UNI’s fifth preseason practice and first inside the UNI-Dome.
While he was jovial in nature that he understands everyone wants a starter to-be named now, Farley for one, is not in a hurry to name one and furthermore says he’s not fearful of going into the regular season with an untested quarterback.
“I’m not worried about it,” Farley said. “I’m watching them play. It is a critical part of the game because he handles the ball every down, but I’m more concerned about who is protecting him.
“How good the guys are that are surrounding him will make him a better quarterback. If we leak in protection. If we drop a lot of balls. He won’t look very good.
“It’s the others that got to rise. If they rise their quarterback will rise. But if they don’t, if they wait for him, they’re going to wait a long time. So they have to rise and bring him to their level.”
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Farley admitted there is not a whole lot of pizzazz to report from the first few practices, but says he and his staff have learned a lot about the team.
“That is kind of the purpose of the first five days, find out who the players are and what they accomplished this summer,” Farley said. “What do they look like compared to last spring, and learn about the new guys.
“With that knowledge, we are ready to move forward quickly now.”
INJURY WATCH: Other than the normal fatigue, wear and tear, the Panthers have gotten through the first five practices fairly unscathed.
Currently, only junior wide receiver Nick Fossey is out, still recovering from a spring injury.
Farley confirmed returning starting safety Korby Sander will redshirt this season after suffering an ACL injury in spring practice. Sander, a junior, played as a true freshman, so he will still have two seasons of eligibility left.
Two critical players to watch that are coming off injury are wide receiver Isaiah Weston (ACL) and linebacker Chris Kolarevic (foot).
Weston caught 22 passes for 380 yards and five touchdowns as a true freshman before suffering an ACL tear during the preseason last year. Kolarevic started the first six games of the 2018 season, got injured against South Dakota and has been on the sidelines ever since.
“Isaiah, he appears to be on the right track,” Farley said. “Kolarevic, he is not there yet where he can be out there with us. I wouldn’t say he is not on schedule, he is just unknown right now.”