New NIU coach Rod Carey front-and-center before Orange Bowl

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New NIU coach Rod Carey front-and-center before Orange Bowl

A day before the 2013 Orange Bowl, Northern Illinois' Rod Carey, a man who had never been on center stage before, took to it.

Carey was named the Huskies head coach 30 days ago, and he admitted this past week that everything has been going at "Mach 10" since that point.

Now, a day before the game, Carey said that he has come to grips with the speed.

Such was apparent Monday, as the personality and comfortability that Carey had only exuded in close groups was on display for the world to see.

But despite the calmer demeanor in the spotlight, Carey didn't follow the script read by seemingly all other BCS coaches. The gist: say a lot without saying a lot.

No, that wouldn't be Rod Carey he's a bit more literal, and playful, than that.

When asked if he was aware of the magnitude of his first game, Carey's response was simple:

"Sure."

When asked about if he's going to move the Huskies to a new hotel the night before the game:

"Yep."

Is it necessary?

"Yep."

Was it decided before he came to Miami?

"Yep."

World, meet Rod Carey. Oh, and never mind the TV cameras, Rod, they're just here to hear you talk.

You'll have to excuse Carey if he isn't yet versed in coach speak, but don't mistake his inexperience for ignorance or naivety. He just doesn't doesn't much care for the ruckus that comes with the BCS.

"I'm happy to do it for NIU and for our football program," Carey said. "But other than that...Listen, I'm more comfortable with a whistle around my neck and coaching than I am with a mic in front of me in a suit, I can tell you that. My wife likes it when I dress up in a suit. I hate it."

No, Carey much prefers his sweat-stained and sun-bleached NIU hat, the same one he wore when he was the offensive line coach.

Carey's steadfastness which can come across as stubbornness to some has allowed him to manage the rapid changes of his career and keep track of the players and responsibilities that have come with them. Two seasons ago, Carey was the offensive line coach for a three-win North Dakota team. Until Dec. 3, you couldn't find him on Wikipedia.

Now Carey is the head of a football program that is one win away from becoming next-level.

Given the pressures and temptations the trip has provided, Carey said Monday that he has been impressed with the restraint his players have displayed in a situation that is less-than-ideal for a first-time head coach.

"You know, you come down to South Beach with a bunch of 18 to 22 year olds, we were all 18 to 22 at one point, can remember what that was like," Carey said. "We haven't had one single incident with bad decision making. I give them all the credit for that. Yeah, we helped them, but you know, kids can always find a way if they really want to. These guys did, and I'm proud of them."

Carey's players have in turn, have been impressed in Carey, who has prepared for his first game as a head coach not as if it's the most important game in NIU and MAC history, but as if it was just another game at North Dakota.

"We don't look at the big picture a whole lot, football is about the little things and about the details," Carey said. "That's what we've been focusing on. But when you talk about those two things, we're excited for NIU and excited for the MAC."

What Carey does want to focus on is the game plan it's nice to have the pen last, he said Monday and getting the details ingrained in his players before they take the field Tuesday night.

But in the end, Carey said, it's just one game.

"Isn't that good that way?" Carey said. "Can't screw it up too much, right?"

DeShone Kizer stays the same leader for new group of Notre Dame teammates

DeShone Kizer stays the same leader for new group of Notre Dame teammates

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A number of teammates took the field for the first time with DeShone Kizer during the cacophony of Sunday night’s atmosphere at Darrell K. Royal Stadium in Austin. And much as Kizer did last year, he led the Irish offense with a certain kind of poise and mentality that deftly toes the line between confident and cocky. 

“When we were down by two touchdowns or when it was tied, he had the same demeanor,” sophomore receiver C.J. Sanders said. “That really speaks volumes about him as a man.”

Kizer wowed his teammates a year ago when he subbed in for the injured Malik Zaire and threw a game-winning touchdown to Will Fuller. It wasn’t just for the throw, but it was also for the way in which the quarterback conducted himself in a hostile, pressure-packed environment. 

Last year’s Irish offense, though, was loaded with leaders. Ronnie Stanley, Nick Martin and Chris Brown were pillars on that team, and there were veterans all around like Fuller, C.J. Prosise, Steve Elmer and Amir Carlisle. 

Notre Dame only returned a handful of upperclassmen who played on that 2015 team in Kizer, Torii Hunter Jr., Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson (running back Tarean Folston was injured in Week 1 against Texas, and tight end Durham Smythe missed the remainder of the regular season after an injury in Week 2). 

So that meant there was quite a bit of inexperience permeating Notre Dame’s offense Sunday night. But some of those greenhorns said Kizer’s composure and confidence helped them ease into a roaringly-intense evening. 

“When we were down, he brought us together and said we’re going to drive and score and come back,” sophomore receiver Equanimeous St. Brown said, adding that message from Kizer gave him and the rest of the Irish offense a confidence boost in the second half. 

“What young guys typically don’t understand when they go into that environment is that it’s not too much different from what you’re doing in practice,” Kizer said. “When you step in front of 100,000 people, there’s a lot of noise and that could definitely create some adrenaline. But other than that, we’re playing the same game that we’ve been playing all summer. 

“The plays have been made time and time again all offseason and just understanding that when they’re out there, they’re expected to make those same exact plays and all they have to do is do that and do that well. You don’t have to go out there and be someone else. We have a really good coaching staff who put you in good positions to make big plays and all you have to do is execute what they say.” 

Leadership is one of those nebulous things every football player and coach will tell you is necessary, but it’s a quality that’s impossible to quantify. It’s not an end-all, be-all for an offense or defense — Notre Dame, after all, didn’t score when it got the ball back after Jarron Jones’ miraculous blocked PAT, which probably had more to do with the loss of Hunter Jr. than anything else — but it is something that can be pointed to as an asset in close games. 

And with Kizer quarterbacking the offense, Notre Dame has to feel confident in its ability to hang in close games. It still needs its special teams, defense (which was primarily behind recent losses to Stanford and Texas) and coaching (behind the loss to Clemson) to come through, but the next time Notre Dame finds itself in a high-pressure, hostile situation, it can count on Kizer to keep things calm. 

And that counts for something, whatever the extent of it is. 

“Before the game he kind of talked to us, got in front of us and told us hey, I don’t care how young you are, I know you guys can make plays,” Sanders said. “So just hearing that from him developed a comfort level to know that he can depend on us. Hearing that from him really made a big difference.” 

Loyola excited for upcoming season, trip to Spain

Loyola excited for upcoming season, trip to Spain

Loyola didn't have the season they were hoping for in 2015-16 but they're optimistic that things can turn around for the upcoming season. Even though the Loyola roster is filled with newcomers, the Ramblers are hopeful that a summer trip to Spain can help give them a head start.

As part of the trip, Loyola will get 10 extra practices and four games against Spanish competition that will give the team some much-needed experience before practice officially begins in October.

Head coach Porter Moser is already happy about working with this group, which features some productive returnees and a lot of talented newcomers.

"We play four games over there. They get that feel of being coached in a game at this level with their teammates," Moser said. "So then when we start back up in October they have a sense of some of the things we're trying to teach, some of the things of what to expect. And I think that's such a big element."

On a team full of new players, it will be important for senior guard Milton Doyle to have a bounce-back year for Loyola after a disappointing junior campaign. A former star at Marshall, Doyle saw his shooting percentages dip last season as the Loyola coaching staff challenged him to improve for his final season of college basketball. 

Moser is happy with the strides that Doyle has made this summer as he's added over 10 pounds of muscle to now play at 192 pounds. Also committed on the defensive end of the floor and being a team leader, Doyle is the Ramblers' only senior this season, so he'll be counted on to be a productive presence.

"It's a lot this year just because we had four seniors leave last year and I'm the last senior," Doyle said. "So it's my job to make sure everyone stays on track and everyone is uplifted, even when coaches get on them. That's my job right now."

Junior wing Donte Ingram — a former Simeon product — and junior guard Ben Richardson also return as key contributors from last year's team while Iowa State transfer guard Clayton Custer is expected to come in and be a major factor in the team's backcourt rotation.

As for the newcomers, Moser compared juco transfer forward Aundre Jackson favorably to former Loyola forward Christian Thomas while Vlatko Granic gives the team a stretch option at forward that they didn't have in the past. The team's freshmen are also very talented as guard Matt Chastain has shown solid athleticism and a good basketball IQ through some early practices. 

Another freshman guard, Cameron Satterwhite, is coming off of a torn ACL that cost him his senior season, but the Loyola staff is optimistic about his recovery for this season. Croatian freshman guard Bruno Skokna is also recovering from injury as he has played against professionals in Europe the last few seasons on an amateur contract. He is expected to be cleared soon so that he can return to action this season.

"I love this group because it's a group full of gym rats. This is a really enthusiastic group," Moser said. "They've come together, we've got a lot of newcomers. That's the benefit, that's why we did the Spain trip this summer."

Loyola takes its trip to Spain from Aug. 12-22 as they'll hit cities like Barcelona and Madrid during the trip.