Panthers picked 2nd in MVFC
ST. LOUIS — The University of Northern Iowa football team was picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference Preseason poll, and six Panthers were named to the MVFC Preseason Team.
Defending FCS national champion North Dakota State was picked as the favorite in the preseason poll with 101 total points. The Panthers were picked second with 92 points, edging South Dakota State who was picked third with 91 points.
Illinois State was picked fourth, Southern Illinois was picked fifth, South Dakota was sixth and North Dakota seventh. Youngstown State, Missouri State and Western Illinois rounded out the remainder of the poll. Indiana State has elected not to play this spring.
UNI sophomore Will McElvain leads the way as the only quarterback on the preseason list. He went 203-for-382 for 2,778 yards and 20 touchdowns while throwing just seven interceptions in 15 games during the 2019 season. He set the conference freshman passing record before it was broken by NDSU’s Trey Lance on his final completion of the national championship game. McElvain also rushed for 372 yards and another touchdown.
McElvain will have his biggest deep threat back in Isaiah Weston, who also earned preseason honors. Weston tallied 43 receptions for 1,053 years and 10 touchdowns. Weston tied the record for the consecutive games with a touchdown with seven. He was named a finalist for the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year Award.
Jared Brinkman was named to the preseason team after a stellar season in the interior defensive line for the Panthers. In 2019, he recorded 83 total tackles, fourth-most on the team with 14.5 tackles for loss and 7 sacks. He also had five QB hurries, forced three fumbles and recovered one.
The 2019 Phil Steele Freshman Defensive Player of the Year — Omar Brown — tallied 77 tackles, including four for loss. He recovered three fumbles and snared a team-high six interceptions. He led the MVFC in interceptions during the regular season.
Linebacker Bryce Flater, a Grundy Center native, earned preseason team honors after leading the league in total tackles with 143. He had eight tackles for loss, four pass breakups, an interception, forced a fumble and recovered another. He finished third in the FCS in tackles.
Sophomore kicker Matthew Cook was 19-for-24 in field goals with a long of 50 yards and was 36-for-36 on point-after tries. He earned first-team all-MVFC honors.
The Panthers open the season on Feb. 19 at home against South Dakota State.