UNI Football Offense is Lethal From Top to Bottom
This 2021-2022 Northern Iowa football squad is absolutely loaded with talent.
I've covered Panther football the last four years and have followed along closely since my freshman year at UNI, 2015. There's no guaranteeing this is the best squad I've seen come out of Cedar Falls -- especially given the quarterfinals run in 2019 -- but if they're not, it's incredibly close.
The purple and gold have started off hot this season, going 3-1. Their only loss came at the hands of the Iowa State University in Jack Trice Stadium. And though the offense struggled initially against the Cyclones, it's since picked up and has a real shot at being one of the best in the country.
Each unit has a significant piece in what the Panther offense wants to do game-in and game-out, and so far, they look like they'll be able to impose their will on any defense they encounter.
Dom Williams, Vance McShane, Tyler Hoosman, and Bradrick Shaw make up the quartet in the backfield for the Panthers. Going into the 2021 season, it would have been easy to point out Hoosman and Williams as the bell cows of the UNI offense. The pair collectively ran for the team-high 618 yards over seven games in the spring.
Fast forward to the fall season, and the four-man wrecking crew has put up 622 yards and eight touchdowns on 106 carries through four games. McShane also caught a touchdown pass of 50 yards from quarterback Theo Day last week and displayed the backfield's capability to impact the game in a multitude of ways:
Coach Mark Farley on the crew of RBs:
Isaiah Weston and Kansas-transfer Quan Hampton lead another position group chock-full of talent.
Weston, a 2019 All-American has put up gaudy numbers through the first few games, hauling in 11 receptions for 234 yards. He's also caught a touchdown pass in the last three contests, including this one in traffic:
Hampton leads the squad in receptions with 19, while running for 219 yards and two scores. The Texarkana, TX native adds a dynamic of speed that few defensive backs can match.
Not to be forgotten, though, are Deion McShane and Cedar Falls-native Logan Wolf. Both bring to the table the ability to make a play at any given moment and are threats opposing defenses must always account for.
Discussing the Panther offense can't happen without bringing up Trevor Penning. The redshirt-junior has been skyrocketing up draft boards early this season. He's on his way to becoming the first ever UNI-product to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, and with the crop of high-level football players to come through the Cedar Valley, that's an impressive feat.
His brother Jared is no slouch, either. The younger of the two earned his first regular starting position on the offensive line this season. He's transitioned to guard, as he's played tackle the majority of his life.
Trevor has offered affirmation to how successfully his brother has made the position change. "I feel like he's more confident there," Trevor told Cole Bair and the Cedar Rapids Gazette. "He's really a mauler. He likes to punish down linemen."
The biggest ceiling raiser for the UNI offense was the decision by Coach Farley to start Michigan State transfer, Theo Day, at quarterback. The Canton, MI native became a Panther this fall after entering the transfer portal following three seasons of little-to-no game action for the Spartans.
Since earning the number one spot on the depth chart, the redshirt sophomore has a completion percentage of 60.34%, thrown for 501 yards and five touchdown passes, and has a passer rating of 154.46.
For frame of reference, in UNI's second game of the season, the first half saw the purple and gold's offense score seven points. They proceeded to score 27 in the third quarter after No. 12 entered the game.
Day is the answer.