The U.N.I. Panthers have been picked as the pre-season favorites to win the Missouri Valley Football Conference crown. The Panthers have a number of key performers back from last season’s team that won the conference crown in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Panther coach Mark Farley says while they may have been voted the favorite they don’t feel like it.
Farley says he still sees his team as coming from behind in the conference and that they are fighting back after several other teams made the playoffs and had good seasons. Last season ended on a down note for the Panthers who lost their regular season finale at Western Illinois before being ousted in the opening round of the playoffs at home by Lehigh.
Farley says they battled all season to get to the playoffs in a tough league and he felt they didn’t have the strength they needed once they got there. He says they’ve worked to address that as you have to be able to compete once you make the playoffs.
Farley says the Panthers are motivated by that playoff loss. He says it was the first time they had been beaten in the first round and he says that is what stands out. Quarterback Tirrell Rennie returns after rushing for more than 13 hundred yards in 2010 and passing for more than 1,500.
Farley says Rennie will be more of a complete quarterback this year. He says they want to improve his passing game as he is already a great runner and they want to improve his management of their style. Farley says making Rennie a better passer will help his running ability.
Farley says Rennie will enter this season as a more confident quarterback, as last year he only has 20 practices before the first game and now he has a year of the system under his belt. Farley admits he has high expectations for this team, as he says looking at last year the team did a “phenomenal” job with the inexperience they had.
He says they go into this year with more experience and confidence they’ve built in the players as they learned and he looks forward to the team they can put on the field. Panthers open the season September third at Iowa State.