#7 Northern Iowa FCS Football 2014 Preview

Northern Iowa Panthers

Overall Rank: #7
#2 Missouri Valley

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Northern Iowa’s tough 2013 season has been well documented. The team beat Iowa State in week one and also beat McNeese State 41-6 en route to a 4-0 start. After that, UNI barely lost 24-23 at North Dakota State before losing three overtime games in a row. Their fifth straight loss came at Illinois State. Sitting at 4-5, the Panthers playoff hopes were long gone. Northern Iowa did win their last three games to gain some momentum heading into 2014.

2013 Record: 7-5, 3-5
2013 Postseason: None
Coach: Mark Farley (111-51 at Northern Iowa, 111-51 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Bill Salmon
Defensive Coordinator: Jeremiah Johnson

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: David Johnson, RB, 1,291 yards
Passing: Sawyer Kollmorgen, QB, 1,824 yards
Receiving: Kevin Vereen, WR, 750 yards
Tackles: Max Busher, LB, 75
Sacks: Xavier Williams, DL, 5.5
Interceptions: Ray Mitchell, DB, 4

Other Key Returnees: QB Brion Carnes, WR Chad Owens, WR Logan Cunningham, OL Jack Rummells, DB Tate Omli, DB Deiondre Hall, LB Jake Farley

Key Losses: OL Dan Kruger, LB Jordan Gacke, DL Collin Albrecht, LB Sam Tim, K Tyler Sievertsen

The UNI defense allowed just 18.8 points per game. That is extra impressive considering the toughness of their schedule and the fact that they played three overtime games, including one which went to double overtime. With an experienced secondary and a very talented group of linebackers, the defense should again lead the way. Cornerbacks Makinton Dorleant and Deiondre’ Hall both stepped into starting role as sophomores and Ray Mitchell is one of the best safeties in the MVFC. Linebacker Max Busher is the team’s top returning tackler with 75. Jake Farley was well on his way to leading the team in tackles again in 2013 before suffering a season ending injury five games into the year. Back and healthy, Farley will be the team leader from the middle of the field. Brett McMakin, who played at both end and linebacker last season, will help support the front four with his pass rushing abilities. Defensive tackle Xavier Williams does not need any help, but this team does need to find some new ends to replace Collin Albrecht.

If there is any blame to go around for last year’s disappointment, much of it needs to fall on the shoulders of the offense. Ranking fifth in the conference in total offense and sixth in scoring offense is just not where this team should be. But with ten starters back, they will not be there in 2014. Quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen threw for 1,824 yards and 14 touchdowns and was relatively consistent and efficient. Chad Owens, Kevin Vereen and Brett LeMaster will be his favorite targets. LeMaster was a key receiver back in 2012 before missing last season with an injury. The ground game will rely heavily on David Johnson. He has been a very reliable back for three years and is a pretty good pass catcher out of the backfield too. Last year he rushed for 1,291 yards and caught 38 passes for 393 yards, totaling 14 touchdowns.

The Bottom Line:
There is no reason for the offense to struggle. Johnson can carry the load and the passing game can do enough to give him space. With improvement on both sides of the ball, this is a Northern Iowa team that should not miss the playoffs again. The schedule is tough again with a couple road trips to the FBS teams to begin the campaign, but North Dakota State and South Dakota State do have to come the UNI Dome.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 163.1 (59th in nation, 5th in conference)
Passing Offense: 189.7 (80, 6)
Total Offense: 352.8 (79, 5)
Scoring Offense: 26.3 (66, 6)
Rushing Defense: 131.6 (29, 4)
Pass Defense: 202.9 (37, 5)
Total Defense: 334.5 (19, 3)
Scoring Defense: 18.8 (8, 2)
Turnover Margin: 0.40 (27, 3)
Sacks: 2.58 (19, 3)
Sacks Allowed: 1.33 (26, 3)

Madness 2014 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#67 Preston Woods
#109 Jacob Appleman


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