March 19, 2013
DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois head football coach Rod Carey spoke at a pre-spring football press conference Tuesday at the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center to preview NIU's upcoming 2013 spring football practices. Joining Carey were running back Akeem Daniels, cornerback Sean Evans, offensive lineman Matt Krempel, defensive end George Rainey and safety Jimmie Ward. Below are excerpts from the press conference. You can watch the press conference in its entirety on Huskie All-Access at NIUHuskies.com.
NIU Head Coach Rod Carey
"We had planned to get to spring practice right after Spring Break and obviously the weather is not cooperating. I'm not afraid of the weather and I don't really care that it's cold. We wanted to give ourselves the best opportunity to get the most work done. We had an opportunity to move things back, so we did. Next week, if it's this cold, there's no more opportunities. We're going out and practicing, so bundle up if you're coming.
"From the reaction of the team, they were ready to get to work, when I told them this morning. I thought that was good to see. I was pleasantly surprised by that. For us, it's a good time of the year to reflect, to reinvent. Reinvent, reflect, look, dissect; whatever cute word you want to use, it's been a good six-seven weeks. We're going to continue to do that. Once you're done learning once you're done doing that as a football coach, you're kind of done. There are a lot of things we need to clean up and we're looking forward to getting on the field and doing that."
On if there will be any changes during spring ball
"There will be some subtle changes. Again, I go back to what I've been saying all the time. You got a program like this, it's not about what you can change it's about what you can keep. So there will be things X and O wise on both sides of the ball that will change. It does every year, so I don't know if that's a difference. The biggest thing you will see schedule wise is we'll finish up spring ball with the Huskie Bowl on the 20th. I'm really excited about that. We'll draft teams and coach Tripodi is going to be the head coach for Cardinal or the red. Coach Kane will be the head coach for the black team. They will share coordinators in coach Niemann and coach Cole so they get to decide to go for it on fourth down or not. The teams will get to practice. We'll carve out time inside of practice for them to get together and set their game plans. I think they're really excited about that. So there's a change for you. The Huskie Bowl will be different. Now the winners are going to get steak dinner and the losers are going to get beans and weenies. So they're not too fired up about losing. They're going to want to win that for sure. There's one of the changes for you."
On the difference between the Huskie Bowl and Spring Game
"The Spring Game is going to be a work-controlled scrimmage, which it has been in the past. It's going to be the same, and we were going to do those two things if the schedule had remained the same. We were going to those things on the same day so Huskie Bowl was going to be on Spring Game. I was a little hesitant about that anyways, and so this new schedule provided us a chance to split those two and get our scrimmage, which is always a controlled scrimmage, for the Spring Game and then get this Huskie Bowl going which we're obviously gives some juice to spring ball."
On the genesis of the Huskie Bowl
"It's something that a bunch of us have been a part of at different times. It was kind of the best of everything. I was a part of the Cream and Crimson down in Indiana and had characteristics of the Huskie Bowl has that, from coach Mallory. Coach Tripodi was a part of something, couple other coaches where a part of things. So we kind of sat around and we would brainstorm and took the best of everything and tried to make it fit for us."
On if the fans will enjoy Huskie Bowl
"I think so. Myself, I would. The controlled scrimmage, when you watch that on ESPN, do you guys watch those spring games on ESPN? Are you guys bored ridiculously by those things? They're terrible. I don't know, that's just me. But you know you got and punt and can't return it. You go out and kick off and you get it to 25 anyways. Then you work a punt return where you rush the punter and you fake block it. It's a controlled scrimmage is what all those things are. And were going to have those. It's important to teach those guys the game. Don't let me minimize those. If you want to have some fun to end spring ball, let's have some competition. Let's roll out the ball and play. They're going to do that."
On the benefits of the additional Orange Bowl practices
"Well it's normal for us now. We kind of build our whole schedule of our year around that of having that time after the regular season to the bowl game. It's like a second spring, it really is. Yeah, you do. You see the benefits because your younger players, this isn't going to be the first time you've been coaching them. You got to coach them in fall camp and you've got to coach them again after the season and now in spring. It's really a third time getting your hands on them. So it's a big benefit."
On the return of the entire offensive line, starting quarterback and running back
"I was thinking back to all my time in coaching, all the way down to high school. I don't think I've ever had an entire O-line back. You may have had four back in different parts of my career. I may have had five guys that played, but not all five starters back like that. It's a unique opportunity is the best way to say it. I think coach Tripodi has done a great job in the offseason with those guys getting them ready. The downfall to that is you become complacent pretty quick. The beautiful part about that, you look for a silver lining and everything, they were roughed up a little bit in that Orange Bowl. That didn't leave a real good taste in their mouth. That's been a good thing for them to have that taste in their mouth this offseason."
On if Carey will be comfortable being the favorite in the MAC heading into 2013
"That's a fair question. I don't know what they [the media] will do. I know two years ago when I got here we had a pretty good team coming back and we were picked to finish third in our division or something like that. I don't know what you guys will do, but as far as me enjoying the expectations I always say this, what if the expectations were only to win five or six games and we do that. Then you're praised for what, mediocrity. That's not something I want to be part of. I'd rather have the expectations high because then you're going to be going after good things, not just mediocrity. Everyone says expectations and stress is a bad thing. I don't view those two things as bad. There's stress of a football game, but guys we're playing a game. How much stress is there?
"Expectations are good. If I expect you to be good, that means I think pretty highly of you. That's a good thing. Do you flip that anyway you want it? If you guys pick us fourth will we say, `You don't respect us.' If they pick us first, `Hey, they gave us respect.' You flip it however you want to flip it."
On what the expectations are for Jordan Lynch next year
"It's pretty hard to do better than he did last year. To say to a kid, `Hey, go out there and do better than you did last year,' I don't know that you can do that with a blanket statement. You've got to give him specific, small detailed goals that lead to giving yourself a chance in the fourth quarter. That's what he's about, that's what we're about. That's how we're handling that. You don't look at the big pot, you look at the small thing."
As a Non-AQ team, how important it is there's not a let up from last year
"We can't control that. We couldn't control it last year. Our view isn't about trying to get back [to a BCS game]. That isn't our view. Our view is pretty easy. Our view is to do what we've been doing around here for a long time. We try and do it much the same way as we can and then good things happen."
On playing four of five games on the road to start the 2013 season
"You've got to line up and play the games. The field is still 120 yards from endline to endline. That doesn't bother us. Would you like to have 12 home games? Sure, everybody would. Not everybody gets it. We'll take the hand that's dealt to us and go play."
On the benefits of playing a lot of road games early
"With this group, you don't spin anything. We are who we are. We've got the schedule we have. Are there advantages to being on the road four of the first five games? Absolutely. Are there disadvantages? Absolutely. I'll tell you this, our team won't flinch."
On how playing in front of 20,000 fans at home elevate the school's status
"If you talked to every program in the nation and talked to them about selling out every home game, that they'd be improving their situation no matter who that is. We're absolutely expecting that this year. I don't think you hope for that, I think you expect it. That's no different than our expectations around here. We have the same expectations of our fans as our fans have of us. We expect that place to be filled."
On this year being a unique opportunity for NIU to take the program to another level
"That's probably fair. This isn't the only opportunity you're ever going to have. That's the best way to say it. Is this a good opportunity? Are we absolutely excited about it? Absolutely. Are we going to take advantage of it and give our best effort? You bet. I'm not going to minimize what's been done around here for 10 years by saying this [year] is it. It's not. This place has been good for a long time. It's just everybody else is here now paying attention, which is great. We love it, keep coming."
On questions about the team heading into spring ball
"When you lose Jason Schepler, and for those of you who don't understand, when you lose a tight end like that you've got to replace that. A challenge has been issued out to Luke [Eakes] and Desroy [Maxwell] that they've got to replace that. Schepler may not have had the numbers to get all-conference, but what he meant to this program as a person and what he meant to this offensive line as a blocker, it's ridiculous. That's a big question. Then we've got to replace Martel [Moore] and Perez [Ashford] on the offensive side. That's going to be no easy feat as well. Martel had a great year. We've got to have guys that step up. Am I nervous about it? You bet. That's what coaches are made to do. Do I think we don't have those guys? No, I do. They just have to go out there and do it.
"On the defensive side, you're talking about [Sean] Progar and [Alan] Baxter. Last year, we could line up and rush four and be pretty good. Nabal [Jefferson] was in there too. We lose three pretty good ones up there. Again, do we have the guys that can do it? Yeah, they just haven't yet. That's what spring's for. Just because we did what we did last year, doesn't mean we don't have a lot of work ahead of us and we certainly do. When you have to replace a D-line like that, you saw it in that bowl game. Our defense played great and we lined up and played four. It's not like we were blitzing every time to stop them."
On the running game
"Our defense didn't change all year. They did a great job all year. In our two losses, what's the common theme? We couldn't run the darn ball. You've got to be able to run the football. Just because on paper you have guys coming back doesn't mean you can run the ball when you want to run it. That's the key to being a great team. You line up and run the ball when you want to run it, not when you can or you're able to. When you want to. When the other teams want to run the football, can you stop them? That's football."
On the importance of having a receiver when you can't run the ball
"We've got Da'Ron Brown and Tommylee Lewis coming back. They played a lot for us. Both those guys are more than capable to do as much if not more than Martel [Moore] and PA [Perez Ashford] did. They're time was a little more limited because we did have Martel and PA much of the year. Now this year, they're going to be full time."
Matt Krempel, Offensive Line
On expectations heading into the season coming off the Orange Bowl
"Our expectations are going to continue to go higher and higher as we keep reaching more and more of our goals, like going to a BCS bowl. We really have high hopes and expectations for next year. Since we have so many people returning, especially on offense, we're going to really grow and get closer during spring ball."
George Rainey, Defensive End
On the competition in spring ball
"I feel the competition is going to be great because we're going to be competing with each other. There's a lot of guys coming back especially on the D-line. I feel the competition is going to be great because none of us have played a lot, but there's a lot of us who have a little playing time. We're going to compete for playing time."
Sean Evans, Cornerback
On spring practice being pushed back a week
"Practice being pushed back a week kind of surprised us a little bit. We'd like to be on the field ASAP, but it's a little bump in the road. We're a team that handles adversity pretty well. We're pretty good at being flexible. It gives us another couple days to prep us for going to work next week."
Akeem Daniels, Tailback
On the importance of being able to run the ball next season
"I think that will be our primary focus this spring and also during the season. I think it all starts with the O-line making their blocks and the running backs making their reads. And of course Jordan Lynch being the impact player he was last season. We plan on imposing our will on teams by running the football."
Jimmie Ward, Safety
On the biggest challenges facing the defense this year
"To be honest, I think our defense is going to be very impressive this year. We lose some players at DB, but we've got some great players like Marlon Moore and Anthony Brooks who are ready to step up. We've got a lot of players on defense."