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Panthers looks to answer questions Saturday
The Northern Iowan projects junior Tirrell Rennie will start game at quarterback
Tirrell Rennie spent the off-season competing with Zach Davis for the starting quarterback position.
Question marks have surrounded the 2010 University of Northern Iowa football team for months.
Who will be the starting quarterback? How is an offensive line with only three combined starts going to hold up? Will the defense have to carry most of the load this season?
The Panthers hope to turn those question marks into periods Saturday as they commence their 2010 campaign at 6:37 p.m. in the UNI-Dome.
The Panther quarterback situation is probably the most publicized question mark of the preseason. Juniors Zach Davis and Tirrell Rennie have split practice time at the starting position for most of the last two months.
Davis has seen spurts of action for the Panthers in the last two seasons, mostly in a relief role, filling in for an injured Pat Grace.
Rennie is a transfer from Ellworth Community College in Iowa Falls, Iowa, where he was a two-time All-American selection.
At the time of publication, no starter has been officially announced. However, The Northern Iowan is projecting that Rennie will start the game.
One thing head coach Mark Farley has made clear in this situation is that he would feel comfortable with either Davis or Rennie in the game. He also is not ruling out the possibility that the two could split time at the position.
“Zach and Tirell have both done a great job, and there really hasn’t been the separation that you think that you might see over time (since they began competing for the spot),” said Farley.
Farley has given no indication of when his decision will be made, but Davis and Rennie do not seem to mind the ongoing competition.
“We both know that we have a common goal, and if that means sacrificing, then that’s what we have to do,” Rennie said.
“It’s a great problem to have when you got two quarterbacks that could step up and play at any time,” said senior tight end Schuylar Oordt.
A more daunting problem seems to revolve around the offensive line. The Panthers started five seniors on the offensive line for most of last season. Junior left tackle Jay Teply is the lone Panther offensive lineman with starting experience, Farley seems to have confidence in the group.
“They’re probably the most improved group since last year from what we started with in the weight room in January until today,” Farley said.
Meanwhile, more familiar faces can be seen from a defensive unit that ranked No. 2 in the Football Championship Subdivision in scoring defense for a majority of the 2009 season. Six starters return.
The defensive line returns two players with considerable experience yet remains a fairly-unknown facet of the Panther defense.
“I think we still have some work there to do, but what I’m pleased there most about is the effort,” said Farley.
A pair of junior wide receviers who saw action during the 2008 season return to the lineup after being absent from the playing field in 2009.
Montari Leonard, who is probably most known for his bobbling game-winning touchdown catch in the final seconds of the Panthers’ FCS playoff victory over New Hampshire in 2007, returns after not being part of the 2009 squad.
Josh Collins returns after overcoming a season-ending ACL injury last year. He gained 750 all-purpose yards during the 2008 season.
By Tim Getting, Northern Iowan