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Competition Drives UNI Quarterbacks

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CEDAR FALLS — Any time a football team has more than one capable quarterback, the term “quarterback competition” is going to get thrown around.

It’s the nature of the beast, and something to which Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley isn’t a stranger.

With Sawyer Kollmorgen and Brion Carnes both more than capable of leading the Panthers under center (or in shotgun, if you prefer), it’s a good problem for Farley to have. Both saw significant time in 2013 to largely positive results, and that’s likely to continue in 2014.

Both want to play and both want to contribute, and the competition among them has created better players.

“I think (competition) is really helpful because you’re going to get the best out of us,” Kollmorgen said. “We’re going to go out there and duke it out every day in practice. We’re going to try to do the best we can and show we’re the starter, stuff like that. I think it’s very helpful, and I think it’s very healthy for both of us.”

Farley has coached enough quarterbacks to know there are different ways to coach different types of players.

For the two he has currently competing for time under center, a competition is working and still productive for a team that went 7-5 last year and had the definition of a peaks-and-valleys season. He knows both guys want it, and is comfortable with utilizing both as long as it’s still moving the team forward.

“I think we all wish we could say, ‘It’s my team, my deal.’ I think they all probably want that,” Farley said. “I want to encourage them both to become a leader, whether you’re with the first group or the second group. I want them encouraged because you’re one snap, one concussion, one something away from being that guy. And when we pick that, now you have to have the maturity to handle that. That’ll be the hard part, that last transition.”

Quarterbacks coach Mario Verduzco has watched both Kollmorgen and Carnes grow as players, and his happy with how they’ve developed.

Kollmorgen initially brought a strong intellect to the position, and has improved the physical side — Verduzco especially highlighted Kollmorgen’s work on footwork in backside throws, something he really struggled with last season. Carnes brought the highlight-reel plays and outstanding physical ability, but is a quick study and has kept his nose in the playbook and become immersed in the system.

What he’s got now, he believes, are two quarterbacks who are comfortable and capable.

“The thing we’re looking for, regardless of who’s taking snaps, is are they effective in a given situation? Are they moving the chains? Those sorts of things. They both did a nice job for us last year, so what we’re looking for is if they’d improve their development from the previous years,” Verduzco said. “The plan this year will be similar to last year, to try to get both of them on the field and go from there.”

Carnes kept his perspective simple.

There’s nothing more he or Kollmorgen can do than to show what they have. And as fall practice gets rolling, he’s feeling as good as he ever has.

“I feel like I’m a lot more developed than what I was last year. I’ve got a year under my belt, a year in the playbook. I’m a lot more comfortable and a lot more relaxed,” Carnes said. “We’re all one unit, so it’s out of our control. We just do what the coaches say, and continue to play hard, continue to work hard, continue to stay in our playbooks and continue to keep fighting.”

Farley declined to name a starter for the season opener at Iowa on Aug. 30, but said he was leaning one direction as of media day on Wednesday.

But he stressed it’s not about winning or losing the job. Both quarterbacks will be used, and he and Verduzco will get together to determine who the best guy is for the job in any given situation.

Their teammates aren’t concerned about it — star running back David Johnson said “I’m not even paying attention” to who will start, because both are capable — so it’s down to who does their job.

“It’s like any position. Guys want to compete. The thing that’s different about the position I coach is there’s only one ball and only one guy that can take snaps,” Verduzco said. “Playmaking, for us when I talk to the quarterbacks, is nothing more than doing their job. Do your job. If you happen to throw the ball on the move, inside right, for a 25 yard touchdown, what was he supposed to do, throw an incompletion? Do your job. Some people call that making plays, I say it’s doing your job.”

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