Dec. 18, 2012
DEKALB, Ill.- Northern Illinois head football coach Rod Carey spoke at NIU's weekly press conference at the Jeffrey and Kimberly Yordon Center to preview the 2013 Discover Orange Bowl with Atlantic Coast Conference champion Florida State. Joining Carey were wide receiver Perez Ashford, quarterback Jordan Lynch, cornerback Rashaan Melvin and defensive end Sean Progar. Below are excerpts from the press conference.
NIU Head Coach Rod Carey
"The last two weeks, it's obviously been really busy for me personally and, more importantly, our team. They had their last week of class. Then they had finals. Then they found out they were in the Orange Bowl and they were anxious to get going on film. They were more busy than I was, if you can believe that, which is good that they were excited about it. In between that, the two weekends we had two sets of practices and went really developmental with those two weekends with our young guys getting them a lot of work playing football. It was good to see those guys doing that.
"Yesterday, we started the main part of our game plan and we got some time with the coaches here to get some film study done and got some things together. It's still coming together, but we're in the middle of a four-day game plan week that we're treating this like we would build up to a normal week. That's what has been going on here.
"Practice today was good. We went inside to the DeKalb Rec and hopefully next year we'll be inside in our own, which will be nice when we are going through this. It was sharp today. The kids wanted to go inside and I did, too. The weather kind of turned on us from what the forecast said. Yesterday, we were outside, which was great for spacing. It was a beautiful day out and we got a lot done. Overall, pleased with the first two days of practices and game prep."
On what to expect from Florida State
"They're good. Understatement, probably, but it's also an overstatement. They're just really good. They're long. They're athletic. They're sound in what they do. Long, athletic, good, well-coached, play hard, do all of those things you expect and ACC champion to do. It's a good challenge, but I'm looking forward to the challenge and I know our players are, too."
On what he would like the country to know about some of these other players on NIU
"Going to the Jordan Lynch thing, if you talk to him behind the scenes, I think he is a little bit uncomfortable with all of it. That's the kind of guy he is. It has been good for NIU to get us out there, not only our community, but our school. We have a lot of really good players on this team. From Martel Moore to Perez Ashford, all of our seniors are playing their best football. That's what makes this team well, is that you have seniors playing their best. Tyrone Clark, Sean Progar, Alan Baxter, all these guys, and I could go on and on and name them all. If you just look through the roster and you can highlight a senior, that's one of our best players."
On how this game is a showcase for NIU players with NFL aspirations
"No doubt. You're going against the best. Here you go. The scouts are going to be looking at all of our games, but the first game they are going to want to see is the top-level competition. It will be good for them."
On Mike Sabock returning to coach at NIU
"He called. He's retired in Florida. I'll make it real brief. His son works as a student coach, kind of helps around the office a little. A really good guy, Kevin. He hurt his shoulder, had to have surgery. His dad had to come up and help him get around after surgery. That's when all this craziness started.
"He called Jeff [Compher] and said `If Rod needs somebody.' Jeff passed that along to me and I jumped at it. Obviously, the first thing I wanted to have was Coach [Mike] Dunbar. When that didn't happen, I'm going to take Mike [Sabock] every day of the week. He's doing a great job."
On play-calling responsibilities
"I'm going to call it this game. I'm going to get out there and do it. We're trying to make it the least amount of change for this team as possible. That was the biggest thing going in, keeping the staff for this game. I'm coaching the O-line, being the OC. I guess I'll be on the sideline and doing some head coaching things, too. If the change is me, that's better than having 105 players changing."
On the smoothness of the transition
"For me, no. For them, yes. For them, it's been really smooth. Go out and watch practice. Our guys know how to work. It's awesome. Our guys know how to work and they go at it. They just kind of fit back in. We snapped back in yesterday and it was awesome to see."
On the roughest things as a coach during the transition
"Walking around every once in awhile. I'm used to coaching the O-line the entire time. It's weird. You walk around not doing anything, you get bored quick."
On rules and keeping the team focused
"Coach [Jimbo] Fisher gave me some advice when we were down at the Orange Bowl (press conference). He said, `Know where they are at.' I said, `Oh, great.' We're going to have some structured events, but this is a reward. That is the other part of this. We're going to let them be kids, but they know they are representing themselves and the spotlight is on and the spotlight is bigger than it's been for us. We've been talking about it nonstop.
"We wanted this. That's what our kids have gone after. To think that they would minimize this or use this or not be responsible with this, I think would be short-sighted on my part. They're going to be responsible. I'm going to help them be responsible, but they are going to enjoy it, too."
On a boost in recruiting
"They call back. The recruits call back. It's good. They're really fired up about it, all the guys we are talking to and they should be. We're a BCS bowl team this year. If you're 18 (and) you're looking at some schools, I think we would be at the top of your list and we should be. That's been a positive. How will it translate? I don't know. I will let you know on signing day."
On contact with Dave Doeren and has he offered any support
"A ton. We couldn't have kept this staff together the way we have if Dave and I hadn't been in constant communication. I give a lot of credit to him on this and I've talked to him about this team. Guys, he was our head coach this year. He led this team. He set tones. He did those things, in all, really well. We're 12-1. So yeah, have I leaned on him and I'm going to lean on him a little more in the next two weeks."
On keys to winning the game
"We need to play well. Guys, when you are going into a game like this, it is like any big game to us. You have to create turnovers. We have to take care of the ball. We have to be able to run the ball and we have to be able to stop the run. That's as old as football is. When you look at the matchups of the BCS teams versus to non-BCS teams, you look at the run games on both sides of the ball. Whatever team can establish the run and whatever team can stop the run, usually that leads to turnovers. That leads to points and, all of a sudden, that eventually leads to the outcome.
"The keys are going to be up front on both sides. I've heard it the numbers. Someone said their O-line outweighs our D-line and all that stuff. All that is good and well, but some of the O-lines in our conference outweigh our D-line, too, and we played pretty good against those O-lines. That's the key."
On how difficult it will be to run the football
"We have to do that all the time anyways. We aren't 310 pounds or 315 pounds up front. We have a bunch of young guys playing who are not inexperienced anymore. They are just young. They might be a little light, so we have to do that anyways. That's part of what we normally do. We have to move things around and create angles and mismatches. We look for it all. We always use the term `Where's Waldo' and find him on defense. Let me tell you, Florida State doesn't have Waldo. They have a bunch of good football players. That's kind of how we go about things normally, so we'll do that again."
On FSU being the fastest team NIU has faced all year
"No doubt, they are. I don't need to expand on that. They're fast."
On the importance of a good start
"We talked about that the other day with our team. One of our biggest strengths is that, no matter what has happened to us, we've had adversity. It's not like we've rolled through 12 straight games. We've had adversity and we've always dealt with it, stayed calm. We have a real even keel, this team, and that's because of our seniors and how they go about things. If we talked about managing your emotions and this, absolutely we have. We are going to continue to talk about that. Everything we've thrown at this team this year, they have responded to. I have no reason to believe they won't respond to this."
On getting off to a good start as the underdog
"Is that important? No. That I think is something for everybody who is watching. We're going to have their attention and they are going to have our attention. Would we want to get off to a good start? Yes. Every game."
On the offensive line
"Losing Logan [Pegram] going into the year was a blow, and losing Tyler [Loos] in that Toledo game was a really big blow because he was playing as well as any tackle in the conference. But the group overall I'm really proud of. We always knew there was talent there, but when you're light on experience on the O-line, as an O-line coach you sit down, bite your nails, and be nervous about it. Am I shocked by their progress? No. Did I expect them to go as far as they have? No. But do I want more? Yeah. You're talking to the guy that coaches them. It's never good enough, just ask them today."
On Logan Pegram
"It's been hard on him. He had his career taken away from him with an injury. I hardly talk about that too much, because I'm pretty emotional about that myself. It's been hard on him, but he's responded well."
On Tyler Loos
"Tyler, he was frustrated, really frustrated. A year ago, he blew his ACL. He battles all the way back, comes back, is all-conference and then breaks his leg. So he's looking at another long road. But he's gotten through that a little bit. And the good thing, I don't know if it's a good thing to call it, he broke a bone, he didn't tear a ligament. With a bone, it's just time. He'll be back, and his mindset is getting right about it."
On having so much off time to game plan
"You have to be careful with that. You're 12-1 doing what you've been doing. And every week you make tweaks as the season goes along. So yeah, we've done some things for this game. I'm the worst at it. You can go in the offensive staff room and ask those guys. I want to do this, that, and the other thing. Coach Cole, Tripodi, Uremovich, and Jackson say whoa, whoa, whoa. They're there pumping the brakes on me. One thing that can be bad is as a coach, you get too much time, you get that pen in your hand, you draw too many pictures. It's bad. So you have to pump your brakes. There will be other things that we do that are different."
On the players' reactions to being in a BCS game
"How we're discussing it behind closed doors, I'll leave that behind closed doors. But their reaction to being in a BCS bowl is they're excited, really excited, and they should be. My kind of take on how the outside has kind of perceived us, it's gone from really negative right away, to kind of turned positive, that feel-good story. I think it's all been great because they all talk about NIU. I think that's a great thing. I think people are responding that way. I think they see it too, what a good thing for NIU."
On how much the team progressed since the Iowa game
"We're a lot different because we went on a 12-game winning streak after that. That's the first way we're different. We didn't know what we had going into that game. I'm not making excuses. Don't take that the wrong way. Iowa beat us that day. Make no mistake about it. You know what? They're a good football team, they're well-coached. Coach Ferentz has been there for a long time and has a good program. We didn't know what we had. We didn't know who we were, we didn't know our identity, and that's no one's fault. We had a lot of new faces, and a lot of new teams. How have we changed since then? We've learned about ourselves. The only way you learn about yourselves is to play a game. You can only practice so long."
On playing close conference games
"I hadn't thought about that. But now that you bring it up, I'll give you my two cents - it isn't worth much. Yeah, you're right. We play the same coaches year in and year out. Same staffs. And you have years of film on them. Not just one year. So you kind of go back and know if the coordinator is the same, you can kind of see how it did this two years ago. There's a lot of familiarity when it comes to conference. That's true in any conference."
On representing the entire Mid-American Conference in the BCS
"Yes, we do. We feel like we're representing the entire MAC. Obviously NIU, and it's a great university we have, one that stands apart from athletics as a fine institution. We're just the front porch. So we represent all of those things and we're willing to do it. We're excited to do it."
On receiving calls from other head coaches in the conference
"Not from other head coaches, but from other friends I have in the conference, like assistant coaches, sure. We text back and forth."
"Congrats, good luck. Which means a lot. These guys you have to play against every year, they're going way to go, go get `em."
On hearing from other coaches in the coaching fraternity
"I've probably spent more time on the phone in the last two weeks than I had in my entire life. That's calling around, me calling around asking advice, to be quite honest. I've spent time on the phone with Coach Mallory, Coach Novak. I even had a conversation with Coach Kill and obviously Coach Doeren. And some other people out there that are head coaches that I've reached out to for advice, because this is all new for me."
On whether the MAC is getting its due respect
"They're probably not. I've been asked that question and gone back and forth on that. What's the level of respect that's acceptable? That's what I ask. Everyone is going to naturally flock to the BCS conferences, and they have this, they have that. Where are we setting the bar for it? Are we setting the bar as a BCS conference? We're not there, as far as level of respect. You have to earn that. This is a big step for our conference and NIU."
Perez Ashford, Wide Receiver
On differences between Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch
"The main difference is that Jordan is more athletic than Chandler - running, breaking tackles, speed. Other than that, it's been the same. Jordan learned a lot from Chandler and took that into his game."
Jordan Lynch, Quarterback
On how the team made it this far
"I didn't do this all by myself - make it to the Orange Bowl all by myself. It's a game plan, it's the coaches, it's the teammates around me, the playmakers around me. We just started getting after it this week with the game plan, and we're excited to go down there."
On getting off to a fast start
"That's one thing we always talk about - starting fast. We're practicing right now; we usually script the first 10 plays, so we're comfortable with what we do. I think that will be key, to start off with a fast pace and get us going."
On having Coach Carey still calling the plays
"Nothing really changes. We're going to do what we did for the last 12 weeks. Do what we did, and come out and play fast - how we normally do it."
Rashaan Melvin, Cornerback
On distractions in Miami
"The main focus is the football game. Everything else is second. We plan on having a good time, but we're going down there to play a football game against one of the best teams in the country. As NIU as a whole program, we're dedicated to our work. We'll just focus on the game."
Sean Progar, Defensive End
On how the Florida State offense stacks up against other opponents this season
"They'll be the best offense. Their offensive line is obviously big, strong, pretty athletic. I think their skill players are where their offense is different than what we've seen. They have some big guys that can move fast at running back and wide receiver. So we're going to have to tackle well, fit our gaps well, and execute the game plan."
On transitioning to Coach Carey
"He has a different personality. I think he meshes well with the team. I think it was good for them to bring in someone that knows what we do, both individually and as a team, and knows what we're all about. I think the way he's ran things so far has been smooth; he hasn't changed much. We've kept our routine, and I think that's big for us going into the game."
On the game being an audition for the NFL
"It's a huge opportunity for us seniors. Obviously they're an ACC, a powerhouse school and university. We're going to get a chance to go up against those guys that we're going to be compared to once we get to the NFL. You're not going to get a pass because you go to a smaller school - they're going to compare you to everyone else. It's going to be an opportunity for us to show what we can do."