CEDAR FALLS Excitement at the beginning of a football season isn't a new phenomenon. Coaches and players across the country are preparing this week for the first game of the season, and every team believes it has a chance.
But for Coach Mark Farley and the Northern Iowa football team, morale headed into Saturday's game at Iowa State is carried over from a summer that was unprecedented in Panther football terms.
With 90 percent of the players staying in Cedar Falls to study the game and work out, the Panthers come into 2013 hoping to hit the ground running.
"I think we have a great opportunity today that I have a lot of options as a coach on offense and defense to do a lot of things on Saturday night," Farley said. "Last year, going into (the season opener against) Wisconsin, we had to keep it pretty simple. My toolbox wasn't really full. There's a lot of things to choose from now, and it's up to us to choose the right stuff to fit these players."
The most obvious option in that toolbox, quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen, will benefit both from the summer activities and his time on the field last season.
Farley said one thing that played into keeping things simple at the beginning of last season was the unpolished product under center in Kollmorgen. Now not only does the signal caller have experience, his mind is more at ease with the players in front of and around him.
"The chemistry we built over the summer (is huge). I feel more comfortable with those guys," Kollmorgen said. "So I'm more relaxed because I know what those guys are doing, and they know what I'm doing. I think that's all because of what we did in the summer."
Kollmorgen said the summer also allowed younger players to show why they're valuable to the program.
And with replacing a large chunk of the team especially those blocking for Kollmorgen and running back David Johnson extra time in the books can only mean good things.
"A bunch of guys proved a lot," Kollmorgen said. "I think staying in the summer helps a lot. Even our offensive line. A bunch of guys are looking good right now. Our starting five are looking solid, really strong. They know what they're doing (because they stayed)."
Now that they know how much easier the preparation can be with a summer of studying, Farley said committing to stay the summer almost becomes mandatory for success.
That is, if it's possible for the players. The investment in the program, Farley said, creates an attitude he definitely wants associated with Panther football.
Unfortunately, there's sometimes a difference between attitude and desire, and the means by which to apply them.
"You have to (stay over the summer). If you don't, you're not going to win," Farley said. "(But) it's not if they want to they all want to it's if they can afford to. Our guys pay to stay here. They have to fill the refrigerators, and get groceries and rent. They have to do those things to stay."
Still, has happy as Farley was with the affect the summer had on his team, the coach hedged his bet a little on how much it'll play into the game Saturday night against the Cyclones.
As the Panthers get into the meat of their schedule, he said, the real proof of what his team gained from this summer will show through.
"I think you'll see more of the results not in the first game, (but) after the open week (the weekend of Sept. 14)," Farley said. "There's some affect at the beginning of the season. After the open date, that's when you should see if there's an impact, and I believe it should show then."
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