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UNI to rely on Q-C trio
Leadership provided by three Quad-City area defenders is helping prepare a veteran Northern Iowa football team for the upcoming season.
“A year ago, we were just looking for guys we could line up at every position. This year, with 18 returning starters, we’re looking for growth, and those guys are helping lead the way,” Panthers coach Mark Farley said Monday before teeing off in Northern Iowa’s 10th annual Quad-Cities Golf Outing.
“The expectation is that they will help us play at another level. They tasted competition last year. They experienced a playoff game. There is a lot for us to build on.”
Farley expects to build around a defensive group which returns end Ben Boothby of Clinton, linebacker Shawn Gerard of North Scott and defensive back Garrett Scott of Bettendorf.
Preparing for his senior season, Boothby was named by The Sports Network to a preseason list as one of the top 10 defensive linemen nationally in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision after leading UNI with 91/2 sacks and 16 tackles for a loss last season.
Gerard is a senior starter who recorded 27 tackles last season while Scott had 46 tackles a year ago and is assuming a greater role in the Panthers’ secondary as he prepares for his junior season.
“This summer is huge for our football team,” Farley said. “What the guys accomplish over the next seven weeks will dictate what type of season we can have. It starts with leadership, and Boothby, Scott and Gerard are guys who have been around. They will make us a better football team.”
UNI returns 10 starters on defense, a collection of talent complemented by an offense that has eight lineup regulars back, including dual-threat quarterback Tirrell Rennie.
Despite youth a year ago, the Panthers finished a 7-5 season with a 14-7 loss to Lehigh in the opening round of the FCS playoffs.
Boothby helped UNI’s defense set an aggressive tone from the start.
Farley knew that the 6-foot, 280-pounder could play the line, but he’s been pleasantly surprised by the intangibles the academic all-American has brought to the team.
“We knew he could take on a double team and be a good defensive lineman, but he’s shown an ability to take over a game, change the course of what an offense wants to do,” Farley said. “He’s got that orneriness about him that the really good ones have.”
Boothby brings that attitude on a daily basis.
“He never seems to wear out,” Farley said. “He plays as hard on a Monday as he does in the fourth quarter on Saturday. That type of effort and commitment rubs off on the rest of our guys.”
Scott, the son of former Bettendorf coach Randy Scott, is one of those guys.
“He’s made himself into a football player,” Farley said. “He plays smart, uses his intelligence. He’s going to be a real key to our defense, running our secondary, and I feel like it is in good hands. You can tell he’s a coach’s kid who has been around the game. He has that savvy about him and you need guys like that to get to the next level. Those guys are working now to lead us there.”
By Steve Batterson, The Quad-City Times