HERO Sports welcomes you to "Three-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 126 FCS programs from June 17 to August 6. Then, we'll preview all 13 conferences from August 12-15. Today, we present … Northern Iowa.
We'll leave no stone left unturned when it comes to giving the FCS diehards all they could ask for this offseason. Learn about every program in the country with HERO Sports.
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Northern Iowa (7-6 IN 2018)
MVFC (UNI finished T3rd in 2018)
COACH: Mark Farley – At School: 19th Year (149-78) Overall: Same
LAST FCS POSTSEASON: 2018 (Second Round)
2018 OFFENSE: 25.6 ppg (78th in FCS)
2018 DEFENSE: 21.3 ppg (17th in FCS)
KEY GAME: Nov. 16 @ South Dakota State: Because of a front-loaded schedule, the Panthers are usually fighting for their shot at the playoffs come late October. This game against the Jackrabbits will likely have huge playoff implications, whether it be for a seed or an at-large berth for either team.
SUM IT UP: The Panthers are a consistent playoff team in the FCS. But the deepest run they've made in recent years was a trip to the quarterfinals in 2015. Still, UNI is one of the tougher programs in the country and doesn't back down from challenges.
The 2019 squad will need some new faces to emerge if it wants to reach the playoffs again and get some wins in the bracket. Six starters are back on offense and six return on defense. Seven players who earned 2018 All-MVFC honors are gone.
For starters, we have to look at the quarterback position. Eli Dunne was a 2.5-year starter and needs to be replaced. The talent in the QB room is stellar, there's just a lot of inexperience. It's a four-man race right now. Jacob Keller is a redshirt sophomore, Will McElvain is a redshirt freshman and UNI signed two elite players in its 2019 freshmen class. Nate Martens is the 49th ranked FCS recruit and the 2nd ranked quarterback in our recruiting rankings. Justin Fomby is the 69th ranked recruit and the 4th ranked QB. Martens arrived on campus early and competed in spring practice.
Whoever wins the QB1 job has a deep and talented group of pass catchers to throw to. The top six players in receiving yards are all back. Briley Moore is a HERO Sports Preseason Second Team All-American and a pro prospect at tight end. The stable of wide receivers is eye-opening with the likes of Deion McShane, Jaylin James and Jalen Rima. Isaiah Weston is also back after sitting out in 2018 due to injury. He was a 2017 MVFC All-Newcomer Team selection.
Marcus Weymiller ran for nearly 1,000 yards last year and was a senior. He won't be easy to replace, but big things are expected for Trevor Allen, who ran for 649 yards and five TDs last year. The offensive line brings back two full-time starters in left guard Jackson Scott-Brown and right tackle Spencer Brown. There's some other starting experience back as well with players who entered the lineup here or there due to injuries, like Nick Ellis starting the first four games at right guard before getting hurt.
UNI has a lot to replace in the front seven of its defense and returns only two of its top five tacklers from 2018. But rarely has this team struggled on the defensive line or at linebacker. Keep an eye on sophomore linebacker Chris Kolarevic. He had a heckuva start to his freshman year before getting hurt.
The secondary is stacked with experience with Korby Sander, Roosevelt Lawrence, Xavior Williams, Austin Evans and Christian Jegen all having starting experience. Williams is a HERO Sports Preseason Third Team All-American and Sander was a 2018 HERO Sports Sophomore All-American.
OUR TAKE: UNI has absolutely killed it when it comes to recruiting. HERO Sports ranks its 2019 recruiting class as the fifth best in the FCS. The future is bright for this program. As for this season, the Panthers look like a strong team once again and eye another trip to the playoffs. But they're one of those teams we'll have to see hit the field before we know how dangerous it can be nationally. There are a lot of holes to fill defensively, but that's always a solid unit. And the QB play is a question mark, but as we said above, the talent is there. Once again, the schedule is brutal and ranked the fourth toughest in the FCS. The Panthers don't want to be playing with their backs against the wall early in the MVFC slate, so they must take care of business against three Big Sky opponents: Southern Utah, Idaho State and nationally-ranked Weber State.
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COUNTDOWN: The Best Player in FCS Who Wears Each Number, 1-99
TOP RETURNEE: Sr./TE Briley Moore (HERO Sports Preseason All-American, 36 rec. for 536 yards and 4 TDs)
THE FOUNDATION: Jr./DB Xavior Williams (HERO Sports Preseason All-American, 42 tackles and 4 INT); So./WR Deion McShane (HERO Sports Freshman All-American for all-purpose, 36 rec. for 482 yards and 2 TDs); Jr./DB Korby Sander (HERO Sports Sophomore All-American, 93 tackles and 3 INT); So./LB Chris Kolarevic (MVFC All-Newcomer, started 6 games before injury, 65 tackles); Sr./OL Jackson Scott-Brown (All-MVFC HM); Sr./RB Trevor Allen (Top returning rusher, 611 yards and 5 TDs);
TOP NEWCOMER: Fr./LB Cameron Baker (HERO Sports' 20th ranked recruit in 2019)
THE QUOTE: "The strength of the recruiting class will be leadership. The players that we recruited have the capability to grow into those roles. They have the potential to be very productive, and leaders, because of their experience. They are winners with great character. I am excited because they really fit UNI and fit our team." — Head Coach Mark Farley said
WERE WE RIGHT?: Last Year's UNI Preview
FCS 2020 NFL PROSPECTS: The List
BEST FCS TRADITIONS: The List
PREVIEWS: The Rest Of The MVFC
Illinois St | Indiana St | Mo St
NDSU | UNI | USD
SDSU | SIU | WIU | YSU
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