#20 Northern Iowa FCS Football 2017 Preview


Northern Iowa Panthers


Overall Rank: #20

#4 Missouri Valley

During Coach Mark Farley’s 16 years as the head coach of Northern Iowa, the program has never had back-to-back losing seasons. After a 5-6 2016 campaign, that streak could come to an end during his 17th season. The Panthers struggled through a brutal schedule and never lost by more than six points until the season finale against South Dakota State. And now UNI boasts a talented team and not only should they avoid another losing season, they should be a serious contender for a MVFC title and a spot in the playoffs.
2016 Record: 5-6, 4-4
2016 Postseason: None
Coach: Mark Farley (134-67 at Northern Iowa, 134-67 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Mark Farley
Defensive Coordinator: Jeremiah Johnson
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Marcus Weymiller, WR, 245 yards
Passing: Eli Dunne, QB, 1,175 yards
Receiving: Daurice Fountain, WR, 413 yards
Tackles: Jared Farley, LB, 80
Sacks: Hezekiah Applegate, DL, 4.0
Interceptions: Malcolm Washington, DB, 4
Other Key Returnees: RB Trevor Allen, WR Jalen Rima, DB A.J. Allen, DB Elijah Campbell, LB Duncan Ferch, P Sam Kuhter
Key Losses: RB Tyvis Smith, QB Aaron Bailey, RB Michael Malloy, OL Trevor Hanson, OL Robert Rathje, DE Karter Schult, LB D’Shawn Dexter, DB Jamison Whiting
Quarterback Eli Dunne played in five games last season and threw for 1,175 yards and seven touchdowns. The 6-5 junior complete 63.8 percent of his passes, but did throw eight interceptions. He will need to improve his decision making, but that should not be much of a problem as he gains experience. Daurice Fountain leads a talented group of wide receivers who were underutilized last season. He caught 33 passes for 413 yards and five touchdowns. Jalen Rima and Jaylin James are both coming off promising freshman campaigns and should help improve Dunne’s production. While the passing game continues to develop, Northern Iowa will rely on running back Trevor Allen. As a freshman last year he was mostly used as a wide receiver, but he is a dynamic playmaker who will succeed wherever he lines up.
The defense did its job last year and ranked second in the conference in rush defense and first in pass defense and total defense. The unit will look different without Karter Schult though. He tallied an amazing 17.0 sacks and 24.0 tackles-for-loss during his senior season. Sophomore Hezekiah Applegate will shoulder much of the pass rushing burden this year. The news is better in the rest of the defense. Jared Farley is back to lead the linebackers after leading the team with 80 tackles. Duncan Ferch added 66 tackles and will start beside Farley again. The secondary has a lot of talent returning, led by Malcolm Washington. He was limited to eight games last season, but intercepted a team high four passes. Elijah Campbell and A.J. Allen are talented playmakers as well. With some transfers coming in to bolster the defense, Northern Iowa should have a strong defense again in 2017. However, the effect of Schult’s absence will be felt for quite some time.
The Bottom Line:
With an improving offense and a defense that has enough talent to overcome the absence of Schult, Northern Iowa should get back to the playoffs. But, of course, the road to the playoffs is a very tough one. The non-conference slate includes trips to Iowa State and Southern Utah and a home date with Cal Poly. The schedule also includes road games against South Dakota State and North Dakota State. It would not be surprising if the Panthers lost all of those games. Nor would it be too surprising if they won most of them. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle and this is a Northern Iowa team that should win seven or eight games and be a dangerous opponent in the playoffs.
Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs
2016 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 163.4 (49th in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 198.0 (76, 7)
Total Offense: 361.4 (78, 9)
Scoring Offense: 29.1 (40, 5)
Rushing Defense: 119.7 (16, 2)
Pass Defense: 190.5 (29, 1)
Total Defense: 310.2 (9, 1)
Scoring Defense: 22.0 (23, 4)
Turnover Margin: 0.64 (18, 2)
Sacks: 2.64 (18, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 3.00 (103, 8)
HERO Sports 2017 Recruit Rankings:
#209 Isaiah Trousil