Panthers feature area, ex-Triton standouts

Messenger photo by Britt Kudla Spencer Cuvelier reacts after making a stop for Iowa Central during the Graphic Edge Bowl in Cedar Falls this past season.

CEDAR FALLS — In just over three weeks, Northern Iowa will step on the field at Jack Trice Stadium in Ames and take on Iowa State.

From this point until kickoff, veteran Panther head coach Mark Farley and his staff know they have questions that need to be answered.

Northern Iowa held media day here on Wednesday inside the UNI-Dome, a place they will call home six times this season including twice in September.

The current roster includes a handful of former area standouts and transfers from Iowa Central including Roosevelt Lawrence, Zac Kibby, Spencer Cuvelier and Tim Butcher,

Lawrence, Cuvelier and Butcher all played for the Tritons, with Butcher also being a former Manson Northwest Webster all-stater. Kibby earned high honors while competing for Bishop Garrigan.

Lawrence made 32 tackles last year and picked off a pass. The senior defensive back was a two-year player for Iowa Central following a standout career in Florida.

He played in all 12 games a season ago with eight starts.

Kibby, a redshirt junior member of the secondary, played in all 13 games with seven tackles. He also was asked to step in at punter after an injury, averaging almost 40 yards per attempt.

With his experience at punter last year, along with his time handling those kicking duties in high school for the Golden Bears, Farley is giving him the chance to take it on out of the preseason.

“Zac Kibby plays with as much heart as anyone on this team,” Farley said of the 6-foot, 215-pounder.

Cuvelier, a junior linebacker, made an immediate impact for the Tritons, earning all-ICCAC honors and the top male athlete of the year award. He recorded 96 tackles, including 22 for loss, with three forced fumbles and four sacks.

“I was suspect of the group going into camp,” Farley said of the linebackers. “But five days in, I am very comfortable that we will find players that will play the way we would like to play at that position.”

Butcher, a redshirt junior defensive tackle, saw action in four games last year for the Panthers. At Iowa Central, he had 74 tackles and a sack.

The Panthers went 7-6 last year, advancing to the FCS playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons. Sixteen starters return, including eight on each side of the ball.

Five members of the Missouri Valley Conference are ranked, including No. 1 North Dakota State and third-ranked South Dakota State. Illinois State is No. 15 and Indiana State is 16th.

“Once we get into (the conference), we better have our ducks in a row,” Farley said. “Because it is going to be a tough schedule.”

Farley is just one win away from reaching 150 and becoming just the 10th coach in FCS history to hit such a milestone.

Kickoff between the Panthers and Cyclones is scheduled for 11 a.m. The game will air live on FOX Sports 1.