Panthers cultivate class from Iowa once again

UNI inks 12 from Iowa on National Signing Day, Nissen among them

Published: February 5 2014 | 4:44 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:13 am in

Northern Iowa football Coach Mark Farley has said on repeated occasions that he and his staff does the bulk of their recruiting in the state of Iowa.

The Panthers even added a sticker to their football helmets during the 2013 season to signify that UNI is the state’s school – with 71 percent of last year’s roster hailing from Iowa, and 92 percent of UNI’s total enrollment being students from Iowa.

That pride and strategy showed through once again on National Signing Day on Wednesday, when UNI released its list of 24 athletes and 12 of them call Iowa home.

“I always think there’s good quality in the state,” Farley said. “I’ve always thought there’s a lot of upside to the Iowa players. I think what’s changed (now) is the number of people recruiting this state. It is evident that the number of people recruiting (Iowa kids) has risen rapidly, so the competition for these candidates has intensified.

“So we have to do a good job of really looking and choosing the ones we feel we want, because we’ll have to lock into them because their recruitment is so competitive.”

Farley said he thought he and his staff did a good job of filling needs with this year’s class, and hopes that several from within the state will key roles going forward.

The Panthers brought in two signees who made the Gazette’s All-Area football team in the fall in Waukon’s Marcus Weymiller and Springville’s Elias Nissen.

Farley doted on Nissen, who is listed on UNI’s Signing Day list as at athlete, and the many options he offers the Panthers.

“I’m excited about the class because I think it fits our needs,” Farley said. “I’m excited about Elias Nissen, from our area, and what he can bring to the table with how athletic he is.

“I think we’ll try him at tight end to start with. He’s very athletic, and tall and rangy. We watched him play basketball a couple times, and he may be one of the best athletes in the state. (I’m) very excited about him.”

In addition to shoring up the linebacker spot with son Jared, Blake Thomas out of Waterloo West and some others, Farley said this class adds much-needed depth to the tight end – enter Nissen – and wide receiver positions.

A big get for the Panthers, Farley said, was Ronald Nash, a wide receiver out of Sioux City (Sioux City East), who starred as both a football player and sprinter on the track team in high school.

“I felt like we needed to get deeper there (at wide receiver) and we also needed to get some speed in there,” Farley said. “I thought Ronald Nash was the best receiver in the state that we could take at this time. He’s got good speed and good size.”

Looking outside the state, Farley considered it a boon to land Bryce Anderson, a linebacker from the Detroit area (Grove High School), as well as the speedy Daurice Fountain – who, like Nash, was also a track star in high school.

“Daurice Fountain has exceptional skills,” Farley said. “He’s a player that could potentially play as a freshman. He’s got size and speed (as well) and could be a real difference maker.”

Farley said he likes the fact that some of the guys he’s recruited have been and could continue to be dual sport athletes, and the option to do so is clearly available.

The extra skill sets, he said, can be of great benefit, so long as the player masters one craft first, then moves to add another to his repertoire.

“Dual sports are fine, and it can be done at certain positions – receivers and sprinters, that type of thing,” Farley said. “The key to being a dual-sport athlete, I’ve found over the years, is you’ve got to become great at one before you add the other to it. If you try to go out right away and do both at a high level, it’s hard to do. But if you can establish yourself in one and become a little more mature with handling school and your sport, then go back and go into doing another sport.”

Overall, only time will tell Farley and his staff what to make of this year’s class of 24 players.

The coach, who will be entering his 14th year as head coach next year, said only on-field results can tell what the make-up of this group is and just exactly what they’ve brought to the team.

But what’s he hoping for? He’s hoping for that Panther attitude he’s established in Cedar Falls over the years.

“Long term, I’m hoping for this class to bring that attitude, that tenacity that wins close games,” Farley said. “It’s a talented class. It’s not where they’re going to be the greatest athletes ever, but I do expect them to be great football players with great attitudes. That’s how you win at UNI.”

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