April 16, 2014
DEKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois University head football coach Rod Carey discussed the Huskies' spring practices and broke down this weekend's Huskie Bowl activities with the media at a press conference at the Yordon Center. Team Black head coach Joe Tripodi and Team Cardinal head coach Kelvin Sigler and select players followed to talk about this weekend's game. Below are excerpts of the press conference.
Rod Carey, Head Coach
"We had to go ahead and change up our Huskie bowl format. We drafted the teams, we split the staff and we usually play seven series, equal series, and then if it's tied we go into overtime. We had to change things up. Quite frankly, we're a little banged up right now. Our numbers being such that we had to change this thing up and go more offense versus defense format and get some work done out of this thing because we can't play defense with only three defensive backs on one side of the ball. That's why we did this and we came up with a good little format. I kind of like this. It will get some competition, which is what we're always about and it will be a good thing.
"We're going to come on out, we're going to flex and warm up a little bit and there were going to go into some competition drills. The first one on the sheet there is the towel drill. Basically, it's a special teams drill. It talks about how we release and kind of some technical things in there but it really creates a good competition. It can be punt verses put return, kickoff verses kickoff return. So there's a lot of carryover in this drill. Really simple, if the guy gets the towel, he gets a point the guy doesn't get the towel the other guy gets a point.
"The release drill then. You always hear about DBs getting up in wide receivers face and jamming them off the ball. We're going to do a release drill there and we're going to give guidelines that they have to get back in a certain area that we're going to mark off the wide receiver does get through it. If he does that then he gets a point. If the DB doesn't allow that, then the defensive back gets the point.
"Field goal competition. We're going to take our two kickers and have them kick. It's kind of a make it take it. We're going start with an extra point, go to the seven-yard line, go to the 15 and then the 20, 25, 30, 35, 40. If they keep making them, they keep kicking. If they miss they're done. So we divide them up. Tyler Wedel is with the Cardinal Team and Josh Orne is with the Black Team. They're going to get points for that. A field goal is three points. If it goes through they're going to get that.
"One-on-one pass rush. We're going to set it up in the middle of the field. We have certain match ups that we'll go ahead and get that to you so you guys can look at those too. We predetermined those. We'll have a quarterback sitting there catching a snap and kind of sliding around the pocket. He's not allowed to scramble or anything like that. If the defensive guy tags off on the quarterback then he wins it if the offensive guy keeps him there he wins, so a point for that.
"Pass protection drill with linebackers and running backs, same thing right there. Just from they're alignments from coming from depth and doing that. Those are all drills that we do every day in practice, which is really good.
"Skelly, or seven-on-seven you guys may know it as. We're going to go into that and it's going to be all third down which is going to be great. You're going to start seeing quarterbacks here and it's offense and defense without the two lines up front, the O-line and D-line up front. It's all throwing. Really easy. The offense picks up the first down they get the point. They don't, the defense gets the point. That's kind of the mindset there.
"Then we're going to go scrimmage and we're going to put the ball at the minus 15 and we're going to play football right there. We're just going to go thud only. We're not going to take them to the ground on that. The offense receives points. Real easy, you kick a field goal you get three points. You score a touchdown you get seven. We're not going to kick the extra point.
"We had to create something for the defense here to score some points. What we did is, if they force a three and out they're going to get three points. If they stop the offense before they get to midfield, it's two points. If they force a field goal, which we will kick field goals in this, it won't be live up front with O-line or D-line but we'll still snap, hold, and kick. The offense can get three points but just for stopping them and forcing that field goal attempt, they'll [defense] get a point. Obviously, if they force a turnover they'll get four points for that. If they score a touchdown, they'll get seven points on that.
"We split it up offense-defense. We're still going to keep everything the same, except we're going to go units. So offensive staff will be coaching the offence and defensive staff will be coaching the defense. Head coaches will still be the same and it's still for a good steak or cold beans and weenies. I think it should get really accomplished what we need to get accomplished given our circumstance right now which is get those guys good competition, get good work done that day and also let them have some fun, cause football is suppose to be fun right?"
On how spring has gone and what people can expect to see Saturday
"Saturday, I'll start with that one. I'm hoping to see good competition. That's the one thing that's happened here this spring is we've competed pretty well. I like the way our team is progressing. We have a lot of young guys in there getting a lot of reps. Any time you have that ability, now 13 practice into it, to get those guys reps, I think you create depth. As you see through a 12- to 14-game schedule, you need that depth. It's a long, grueling schedule. Been really happy with the way we have developed some depth on this thing and I hope that carries over into Saturday."
On if anything stands out as a bigger progression than you had hoped for
"I'll tell you what, the first three scrimmages now, the defense has really played well. We got some new faces in there, which we did last year at this time too but, they had really three solid scrimmages. The last one here, the offense kind of took control a little bit and scored a little more, which is good to see. You always want to see that give and take. I'd say overall I'm really happy with how our defense had progressed with all the new faces."
On which part of the defense that has really stepped up
"Yeah that's a good question. I mean I think more than position groups, individuals. You've seen Austin Smaha and Perez Ford get into position to win and winning. Then, I think Jason Meehan, senior leadership, he's done pretty well in there at times, and Donovan Gordon too. Then linebacker-wise, we've really played a lot of guys in there and it's been good. Sean Folliard, and Boomer Mays have been making plays.
"Then Marlon Moore, we took him, moved him to safety and I thought he's had a really good spring. Paris Logan probably has had the best spring of anybody on the football team to be honest with you. Now, he's got more work to do, but he's really come along ways and Anthony Brooks, he's had a really solid spring too coming into that role, he has to get out on the field as a defensive player not just special teams. A consistent guy, so he's been making strides that way as well."
On the expected return of Jamaal Bass
"He'll be clear sometime here this summer. Sometime in that July range. After the season he had to have surgery, so he got that surgery and he's on the mend."
On if there is a particular position NIU is banged up at preventing the Huskie Bowl
"D-line and defensive backs. It's not so much what the injuries are. It's the numbers in the spring. You're always light a little bit with numbers in the spring and with graduation we're a little lighter in those two areas then we have been for spring. You get a couple guys dinged up, and now you're talking about guys having to go and take a ton of reps and at this point, that increases injury factors. You try to limit those reps with the number you have."
On the discussion of the scoring system
"That's all I did yesterday after we made this decision. I mean it was basically, I don't know what time we got off the field, a little before 9 a.m., and I sat down and talked about it. Then I pulled everybody in and we talked about it more. After we decided we were going to have to change the format then it was how were we going to change it? We're not very smart, so it took us a long time to figure it out. So, three or four hours we spent on this yesterday. Donna did a great job you know staying flexible and getting this out to you guys so."
On how many reps each quarterback will get
"I want to go ahead and give each quarterback a series or two. It's really going to depend. Ideally, now this is the offensive guy in me talking ok, ideally we like to see the first quarterback go out there, drive the field down, next quarterback drive the field down and the third one go out there and drive it down. But the defensive guy in me would be like, that is terrible. If we get stops in there, then we'll go a little bit more and try and get those snaps evened out for each quarterback. I'd like to be in that, I'd say 15 to 25 snaps for each quarterback with that unit."
On how the quarterback have progressed
"Matt McIntosh, he got dinged a little bit in the weight room off the field about a week ago so he missed last Friday's scrimmage and last Thursday's practice. Other than that, he's done really well. I think Mac has had a good spring. He's improved a ton and I'm really happy with his improvement and his command of the offense. He already had a pretty good command of the offense.
"Drew Hare, really I think he's improved a ton too. He didn't have as much command of the offense because of his time here. He's only been here two years. I think his improvement through there has been, he has a firm command of it too and his decision making really really good.
"[Anthony] Maddie, knowing that he hasn't been with us a whole ton, he was on scout team in the fall his, his command of the offense was obviously less but his improvement probably percentage wise has been the most. Although, it's not to where the other guys are yet.
"So it's a good problem to have coming out of spring is that we have three quarterbacks that have improved. We're going to have to, before our first game, have somebody go ahead you know separate themselves a little bit. The improvement has been really good from all three."
On if there was a time Carey saw any separation between the three, but then it closed again
"Yeah, daily. I mean the first six [practices] I would say they each took turns. One had a really good one, then the next time another kid had a really good one. It's not that this kid fell off, I think the other kid just responded and then this kids come up. It's been a climb. It hasn't been an up and down. It hasn't been a yo-yo. The first six were, I'm not kidding you, I think it was a different kid who graded out the highest each practice.
"So yeah it's been all over the board but like I say, it gets frustrating because you sit there and your like, `come on.' At the same time, when you can take a step back and take a 10,000-foot view at it, all three are getting better. You know that's a good problem to have. Like I say, year four for the system too, I think that makes a lot of difference.
On what the quarterbacks can do to get better
"A lot. That's the one thing about our guys around here. When they come back in the summer, they work and they're throwing everyday. They're getting out there and doing it on their own. It's really a pretty special thing to be a part of as a coach because we have a little different rules this summer where we can actually meet with them on football. We can't practice in the summer but we have an hour or two [per week] in the summer where we can meet with them. That's a rule change.
"We will do that, but around here, these guys throw seven-on-seven three or four times a week. They get out there and practice on the off days. As your walking in and out of the building you catch these guys out on the field and they're doing it so its pretty neat to be around. So they have a ton that they will get accomplished this summer."
On if Carey expects Marlon [Moore] to be the full-time safety next year
"Yes. I think that more of his natural position anyways."
On what makes Moore a good fit at safety
"He has played two years at corner so he's got good cover skills. He's a really really physical guy. Anytime we played him in the nickel, in any situation when he was playing corner and we moved him into nickel, he was always very physical. If you have those two attributes, I think that lends itself towards safety. He understands the defense really well, so making checks and being vocal and communicating he's just improved leaps and bounds this spring."
Kelvin Sigler, Cardinal Head Coach
On this weekend's Huskie Bowl
"Well, we're actually looking forward to the Huskie Bowl. We were kind of disappointed that we didn't split the squad, but we had to do what was best for the team. We got a couple guys banged up. We had to, like I said, do what was best for the team. Defensively, coming out in the spring, there are some things we need to work on, and we still got a little ways to go. The kids are working hard and being very competitive out there, but we just want to keep getting better with each practice."
On if Jay Niemann will call the defense again
"Yes, Coach Neiman, he will still coordinate the defense and call the defensive plays. We just still got to go out there and execute it."
Jason Meehan, Cardinal Defensive End
On which position group has improved the most in spring
"I think throughout the course, our D-line, you know, our D-line has stepped up a lot. We lost a lot of experience. We have a ton of talent though, but a lot of the guys aren't as experienced as we have been in the past. So, definitely a lot of the guys have matured and stepped up and had to take on that role that they didn't have to last year. Everybody else, the same, I think our linebackers have definitely improved upon what they had last year and they're even better. And, you know, just everyone. It's spring ball. We haven't played football since the bowl game in San Diego. We've made tremendous strides since then."
Michael Santacaterina, Cardinal Linebacker
On which position group has improved the most in spring
"When it comes to linebackers, we didn't graduate anybody, so we have the whole crew back from last year. When it comes to spring ball, it's time to really focus on yourself. You're not playing in front of an opponent, you're not game-playing or anything. You're really just, you're honing in on your skills, focusing on the fundamentals, just trying to get better each and every day. I think the whole defense is going to be like that.
Joe Tripodi, Black Head Coach
On this weekend's Huskie Bowl
"At this point in spring, this thing comes down to competition. They way the format is set up now, you guys will see some heated battles in different drills these kids have been doing all spring. As a former player, especially an offensive lineman, those are you teammates, but you develop some personal vendettas so to speak of a competitive nature. It's that competitive nature that all our guys have has helped this program develop an edge. That's what you'll get a chance to see this weekend and I'm excited to be a part of it."
On what it means to continue the streak of Huskie Bowl victories
"We're all competitive in college football, whether is coaching or being a player. Shoot, we're all former players. The biggest thing is, it is just exciting to see some things you've been working with your guys all spring on and to see it all come to fruition in the culmination of a Huskie Bowl or spring game, that's the biggest point especially from a coach's perspective. Just seeing that competitive nature, that's the biggest win in this situation."
Andrew Ness, Black Center
On spring practice coming to a close
"You always look forward to the end of spring practice as a player. Spring practice is a grind. You only have the spring game to look forward to. You don't get to look forward to hitting someone else. You're just banging your head against your teammates. It's nice to compete against your teammates and bring it to a close with the Huskie Bowl."
Chad Beebe, Black Wide Receiver
On what impression he wants to leave with the coaching staff on Saturday
"The release drill we are doing will be a big tell because I am a smaller guy. Getting off the line will be huge for me. Making an impression there would be a big thing for me."