CEDAR FALLS — Mark Farley wants to build a better football team.
He thinks he has the equipment he needs to get the job started.
As Northern Iowa prepares for Saturday’s 2013 season-opening game at Iowa State, Farley talked about preparation .
Thanks to all the off-season work and the lessons learned last year during a 5-6 season, the coach suggested the Panthers own a more solid foundation than they did a year ago when they began 2012 at Camp Randall Stadium.
“Last year, going into Wisconsin, I had to keep it pretty simple,” said Farley during Monday’s press luncheon.
The UNI coach added, “My toolbox wasn’t really full. I think there are a lot of things for us to choose from now, and it’s up to use to choose the right stuff to fit these players. But I do feel comfortable saying that we have a lot of choices as we prepare - as to what we can play. Now we’ve got to lock into those we can play and get better at them.”
One of those tools is a veteran quarterback. When Sawyer Kollmorgen ran the UNI offense in the 26-21 loss at Wisconsin, he was starting for the first time at the college level. With Iowa State on deck, Kollmorgen has a full season of hands-on experience with the playbook.
That means more choices for Kollmorgen, the seasoned quarterback, as opposed to Kollmorgen the rookie.
“We just didn’t know how he would manage the game,” said Farley. “So we kept a limited package for him so he could manage that game. Now he has a better understanding. We have confidence in him and he in himself. It gives us the ability to have maybe a stronger package for the first game, knowing what his abilities are.”
Kollmorgen believes he knows the personnel better as well.
“We were a young offense last year even with the receivers,” said the sophomore quarterback. “Now we all understand what we’re trying to do better. It’s not just me.”
Kollmorgen also said, “We got a bunch of tools, a bunch of weapons. It all comes down to that we all built a lot of chemistry this summer.”
Elsehwere, the Panthers are a more experienced football team.
On the defensive side, UNI has four down linemen (Chris Jepsen, Isaac Ales, Xavier Wiliams and Collin Albrecht) who started at least one 2012 game. All three of the No. 1 linebackers listed on the depth chart (Zach Cutkomp, Jordan Gacke and Jake Farley) were among the first-teamers at one time or another in 2012
By contrast, two members of UNI’s starting front seven at Wisconsin (Jepsen and Gacke) had started a game prior to last season’s opener.
There are some areas, of course, where UNI remains untested. Three new Panthers are scheduled to start in the defensive secondary, for example. The receiving corps must carry on without Brett LeMaster, who’s out of the year with a knee injury.
Then there’s the punting situation. Farley suggested that Logan Bieghler has the edge over Sam Kuhter in the battle to replace Kyle Bernard. Facetiously, the UNI coach said he’d rather defer the option to later.
“Hopefully, we don’t have to punt and I won’t decide,” said Farley, laughing.
He added, “It’s high probability (it’s) Logan Bieghler. Logan’s been real consistent and done a nice job.”
SECOND TEAMERS FIRST - With LeMaster out, the three No. 1 receivers listed on Farley’s inaugural depth chart of the year are Chad Owens, Kevin Vereen and Phil Wright. No surprises can be found there.
The backups are Logan Cunningham, Isaac Lintz and Kreston Caldwell, respectively.
During last Thursday’s scrimmage in the UNI-Dome, Cunningham and Lintz played well, said Farley. They looked like Panthers who could contribute, he said.
“Those two really started moving,” said Farley. “They were making nice plays Thursday night.”
The UNI coach added, “Once they got an opportunity to be surrounded by the first team, they started performing like first-teamers Thursday night. That was really nice to see on Thursday night and hopefully we’ll build off that for this coming Saturday.”
SURPRISE PARTIES - Asked if any players had surprised him by a quick rise up the depth chart, Farley pointed to a pair of reserves in the secondary - Joe Feldpausch and Jamison Whiting. Feldpausch is a junior college transfer at free safety and Whiting is a true freshman cornerback.
“They’ve done well enough and performed well enough. I’m excited to see how they play Saturday,” said Farley.
WARMING TO THE SUBJECT - With temperatures forecast to be in the 90s for the balance of the week, Farley was asked about practice and dealing with the heat.
A case of cramps caused by dehydration, said Farley, could cost a player valuable preparation time on the field or even keep someone out of the action at Iowa State.
“We’ve got to be conscious of it and we have to practice in it,” said Farley. “You can’t just walk out there and do it. So we’ll have to play that game and hopefully make the right decisions.”
©2013 Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Waterloo, Iowa)
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