Carey, NIU ready for Miami

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Carey, NIU ready for Miami

DEKALB -- George Rainey admitted sleep was a little hard to come by on Christmas night.

But the Northern Illinois defensive end was alert and smiling early Wednesday as Orange Bowl reality set in as the Huskies began a nearly 1,300-mile trip to Miami in pre-dawn darkness.

"I was so excited that I couldn't really sleep at all," said Rainey, a redshirt junior from Milwaukee as he boarded one of six buses carrying players and staff to Rockford Airport. "But I'm wide awake."

Fifteenth-ranked Northern Illinois (12-1) plays on the biggest stage in program history when it meets No. 12 Florida State (11-2) at Sun Life Stadium on New Year's Day.

"I'm expecting to have fun, expecting a new experience, something new for all of us," said Rainey, who recorded 24 tackles in 12 games, including 2 12 sacks. "(And) we'll be playing in warm weather."

Temperatures were predicted in the low 80s in Miami, a big contrast to DeKalb where it was windy and in the upper 20s early Wednesday.

Dawn was still two hours away as the Huskies gathered at a far west campus parking lot for the ride to Rockford and a charter flight to Florida.

Buses were already nearly filled at 5:10 a.m. and the final stragglers boarded over the next 20 minutes.

The nearby Convocation Center was bathed in orange lights as head coach Rod Carey briefly stepped out of his bus to check on arriving players.

"They're excited to be up this early and at 'em," said Carey, named NIU head coach nearly three weeks ago after Dave Doeren's departure for North Carolina State. "Everyone's looking forward to it. We'll have a little reception down there and go right to practice. There's a sense that they want to get this going."

Carey spent the last two years on Doeren's staff and served as offensive coordinator this season after Mike Dunbar stepped away to concentrate on a battle against cancer. Carey will continue to call offensive plays for the Orange Bowl.

The NIU caravan rolled out at 5:31 a.m. to catch a scheduled 7:45 a.m. flight. The Huskies were set to arrive in Miami around 11:30 a.m., then hold the first of five practice sessions at Barry University in Miami Shores.

But it won't be all work for Northern Illinois.

A Thursday beach party is planned at the Fontainebleau Beachfront in Miami Beach. Other days will feature dinner outings, a prayer breakfast, a hospital visit by players and a series of press conferences and receptions.

Winners of a school record 12 straight games, the Mid-American Conference champs bring the nation's No. 9 scoring offense (40.77 points per game) against the Seminoles' No. 6 scoring defense (15.08 points).

The Huskies will play in a postseason bowl for the seventh time in the last eight seasons, but never one so lofty. They are first MAC team to appear in a major Bowl Championship Series game and meet Florida State, the Atlantic Coast champ, for the first time.

NIU is 3-6 all-time against teams from the Sunshine State and 2-6 against current members of the ACC.

The Orange Bowl kicks off at 8 p.m. (Eastern) next Tuesday and will be televised nationally on ESPN.

Edgy Tim goes one-on-one with Mount Carmel's Terrance Taylor

Edgy Tim goes one-on-one with Mount Carmel's Terrance Taylor

Mount Carmel junior defensive end/outside linebacker Terrance Taylor (6-foot-4, 204 pounds) was simply one of the most impressive overall performers at the EDGYTIM Underclassmen Showcase, powered by EFT Football Academy.

Taylor, who worked out as a linebacker at the showcase, also plays defensive end for Hall of Fame head coach Frank Lenti's Caravan. Taylor, who has two early verbal scholarship offers from Central Michigan and Toledo, has the look, tools, overall physical upside and potential to become a highly sought after recruit in the Class of 2018.

Take a few minutes to meet Taylor in the video above.

Fire showing patience with emotional Dax McCarty

Fire showing patience with emotional Dax McCarty

The Chicago Fire opened its preseason on Monday, but much of the focus was on a player that wasn’t there: Dax McCarty.

The Fire traded for the midfielder from the New York Red Bulls last week and he is in camp with the U.S. national team.

Leaving New York hasn’t been easy for McCarty. He tweeted a lengthy thank you note to Red Bull fans on Sunday and still hasn’t mentioned anything about the Fire publically.

Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic visited McCarty at national team camp last week to make introductions.

“We obviously knew that this had to come as a surprise to him,” Rodriguez said on Monday. “A captain of another team, he had just gotten married. There’s never a good time to have unexpected change hit you.”

Getting McCarty on board with what the club is building is going to be key for the team’s success in 2017. Integrating McCarty and the other high-profile offseason additions, fellow midfielder Juninho and striker Nemanja Nikolic, into what Paunovic wants to implement will play a big role in how the Fire start the season. In order to do so effectively means making McCarty happy with his new team.

“For sure he’s a very, very emotional guy,” Paunovic said. “I like the way he expressed how he feels at this point. We all have to empathize with that and respect his time and the situation that he is going through.”

As poor as the timing of McCarty being traded two days after getting married was, it could be to the Fire’s benefit that McCarty is with the national team now and can have some time to process the change before arriving in preseason camp with the Fire in Florida in February.

“We are waiting for him here with open arms and waiting for him to come back, to handle all this situation, to go through that, then come here clear with desire that he played so far, with the same passion, with the same effort on and off the field and for sure with leadership that he will bring to our locker room,” Paunovic said.

For now, both Rodriguez and Paunovic are preaching patience. Rodriguez said McCarty was the top target of the Fire and said the move was six months in the making.

“We respected his need to breathe and to have time to go through his emotions, to spend time with his wife,” Rodriguez said. “I think everything will come in its due course and when his time with the national team camp ends we’ll give him a little time that he might need to recover from that camp and to attend to some personal matters and we’ll embrace him when he comes.

“For those of us that are married we know that happy wife equals happy life so we have work to do with Dax and his wife and his family and having them feel comfortable about Chicago. They were looking to put down roots in New York. Whether it’s unexpected like that or it’s someone like Nemanja Nikolic who chose us and chose to come here, we still have to work with him and his family and acclimating them. Our approach and our attitude is the same, although the circumstances are different. We have to be empathetic to the sensitivity that Dax and his wife are going through.”