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Transcript of Northern Illinois defensive coordinator Jay Niemann's press conference at the Orange Bowl
THE MODERATOR: We want to welcome defensive coordinator Jay Niemann to the Discover Orange Bowl press conference this morning. Coach, you've had a few days to be here in South Florida to continue preparations for the Discover Orange Bowl. How are things going for your team over the past few days.
JAY NIEMANN: It's been going really good. Our players have enjoyed all the festivities. Everybody has been really cordial and outgoing and everything has been first class. We've had several good practices that we've been able to get under our belt, and everything is off to a great start, so we couldn't be happier with where we're at.
Q. Can you talk about Florida State's offense, the dynamic of it? They have so many skill guys, so many guys that can be kind of game breakers, and also specifically EJ and your thoughts on EJ Manuel?
JAY NIEMANN: Well, he's where it all starts. Every great offense, almost every great offense has a great quarterback within it, and obviously when you throw 22 touchdowns for over 3,000 yards and complete 67 percent of your passes, you're doing some things pretty well. So he's a great talent. He's a great player.
But like you said, there's lots of other guys within that offensive system that have a lot to do with his numbers and his production, and there's great running backs within the system. Their tight end O'Leary I think is a little bit of an overlooked player, particularly in their two‑back package offensively as far as what he does in the pass game for them, and then their receivers, they've got a stable full of guys that have great size and speed and can go up and get the ball.
Like any good offense at this point in time when you've won 11 and 12 games and getting into BCS Bowls you're going to see offenses that are tough to defend because they have multiple weapons. Certainly they do, and that's the challenge for us, to get them bottled up.
Q. I'm interested in your thoughts on this bowl game, obviously there's a lot of hoopla that goes along with it, something that Northern Illinois hasn't really experienced before. What is the toughest part about being a coach in a situation where you're getting athletes going in to beach parties and going to South Beach?
JAY NIEMANN: Personally I don't think it's been more difficult. You know, this is the second bowl that I've been to with NIU, since we've only been here two years, obviously, but again, it's a BCS bowl. The magnitude of the game is greater and all those types of things, but the process is still the same in terms of the players' preparation, knowing when it's time to practice, when it's time to play, when it's time to meet and separating those things from all the other things that go along with it.
Q. There's been so much national attention obviously about Northern's offense in Jordan Lynch in particular, and yet the defense of the Huskies has really improved, especially from last year. Just talk about the pride factor of the entire unit to get the recognition that they deserve, as well.
JAY NIEMANN: Well, they have improved, and I appreciate your comments on that. I think our players really don't care, honestly, where that credit goes or who gets it. One thing about Jordan Lynch, he's as humble and as gracious a person as you're going to find. It makes it very easy for our players to‑‑ on defense to hear the things that are said about him, to see the things that are written because he's just one of the guys. He'd be just as close with the defensive players as he is the offensive players, so I don't think the issue of who's getting credit or any of those things is a factor with our team. They just want to win, they want to compete, they want to do well, and however we get that done, whether it's winning 40‑39 or whether it's winning 7‑3, at the end of the day a win is a win, so that's what they've been about.
We have improved a great deal defensively. Our kids have taken a lot of pride in that process. It started all the way back last spring when we came off of the signing date and recruiting and started to get into spring practice, and I think that's where the foundation was laid for where we've gone with this defense. The players have done everything that we've asked of them in order to get to where they are right now and have done a great job throughout spring, summer and fall and have put together a good year.
I don't know if that answers your question directly enough, but we're‑‑ like I say, we're just about going and playing as a team.
Q. How has Rod getting the head job affected you both in terms of maybe planning and just your relationship, personal relationship with him?
JAY NIEMANN: Well, I couldn't be more happy for him. Let me just say that from the outset. What a great opportunity for him, and very deserving of this opportunity, so we're thrilled for him to be in the position that he's in.
He's an offense‑minded guy, of course, and at this point in time, with only a couple weeks between the announcement of him being the head coach and us being in this game, it's not like he could become a defensive minded coach or get too involved in our planning because of the terminology and just the Xs and Os of what we've done over the course of 12 weeks. You just don't pick that up in a week to 10 days or two weeks. He's plugged in and given us his thoughts on things that pertain to the game and the preparation, but by and large it's been myself and the other defensive staff members who have put the plan together and set up the practices and done all the drill work and things with the players to get them ready.
After playing 12 or 13 games you kind of do what you do on both sides of the ball. Things aren't apt to change a whole lot outside of little wrinkles that you have each week for a game plan. Whether Coach Doeren was still here or not here, I don't think that would have changed too much what we were doing for this game.
Q. Your pass rush obviously has been strong this year. What's contributed to that, and what type of challenges will it pose try to rush a guy like EJ Manuel?
JAY NIEMANN: Well, I appreciate that. We've done a great job trying to pressure the quarterback with four guys. I think a lot of that has to do with just their maturity and their experience within our system. Last year obviously being our first year, there's a learning curve there that you have to go through, and I think you've seen the curve go from kind of the infancy stages to where we're really polished at what we're doing now. They do a great job just understanding what they're being taught by Ryan Nielsen our D‑line coach, and we have a plan every week for how we're going to try and pressure the quarterback in passing situations, and so those guys have done great job getting that plan down and executing it on game day.
With EJ Manuel, obviously his foot speed and his size present some different issues that you might not face with other quarterbacks other weeks, and so we'll have to consider bringing a fifth rusher at times if that's what the down and distance and field position situations call for, and if not then we've just got to do a great job with our rush lane ratios and compressing the pocket and keeping him in there, and when he gets out then we have to have a way to get him contained with linebackers and try to make sure that he's not throwing the ball down the field and hurting us by running and throwing, hurting us with his feet, because he can do that, too.
Big challenge, but we'll have our ways to schematically keep him contained.
Q. Could you talk a little bit, please, about your four South Florida guys that you have, Jamaal, Ken, Victor and Demetrius, a little bit about each of those four and what impact they've had in terms of the success of your defense?
JAY NIEMANN: Mm‑hmm. Well, Jamaal Bass has been a linebacker that's played a couple different spots for us. Our linebackers, we have a middle linebacker and then the other two are field and boundary. Jamaal has done both field and boundary backer. So he's a multiple guy. He also can play the mike and nickel and dime packages for us. For a young guy he's caught onto the system well. I think he's a good tackler. He's a guy that moves really well, that has a great skill set for what we're asking him to do within our scheme, and he's still a young player within our system but highly productive, and not only has he had a good year but we're looking for a couple more good years to come from him once this season is behind us.
Ken Bishop is a tremendous inside player for us, a guy who I have tremendous respect for. He commands a lot of double teams up front, very physical player, and he's a guy who also moves extremely well for a 300‑pounder, and he's been a great addition to our football team and has had a lot to do with our success in terms of not only pass rush but what we've been able to do in terms of stopping other people's run games. So we're really pleased with him, and he's been off to just an exceptional start for a first‑year player in our program.
Demetrius Stone is jack‑of‑all‑trades. He's played everything on the back end. He's played corner, he's played safety, he's played nickel, very, very intelligent player and a very gifted player, just can't say enough good things about him. He is a defensive back of the year for us in terms of our postseason awards at our banquet, just a really complete player and just invaluable to us because he just has such great command of what we're doing in our coverages and where people need to be able to get to be lined up appropriately and all those kinds of things, and a real pleasure to coach. Just a great young man.
Victor, our mike back, Victor Jacques, is just a real treat. He's a guy that's a great personality, a lot of fun. He's just thrilled to be back home playing this game. He's battled through some injuries this year, which have made it tough for him at times. There's a couple games he missed, a couple games he wasn't full speed, but he's battled through it, he's played hard. He's been a great guy for the chemistry of our defense in terms of his leadership qualities, and of course any good 4‑3 defense has to have kind of a bell cow mike linebacker, and he's been just that for us.
Q. Can you just talk about the difference Tyrone Clark has made being back this season after missing last season?
JAY NIEMANN: Tyrone Clark has had a great year, and we were very thankful to get him back this year. He's been very productive. Again, he's got great leadership qualities, has been able to play both field and boundary backer for us just like Jamaal bass has been, and very, very steady guy, physical player, good tackler, plays well in space, which will be important in this game. He's had a really, really solid year for us, and just to have him back in the lineup from a leadership standpoint has meant a great deal to our defense and our chemistry and where we've been able to take this.
Q. How many of your guys do you think have serious NFL talent, and how could a strong performance Tuesday help them in terms of the performance for the scouts, stuff like that?
JAY NIEMANN: Well, I've been doing this over 20 years now, and what I can tell you is what an NFL scout sees might be completely different than what I see. Sometimes there's surprises every year, guys you think might be at that level don't get taken and other guys you don't think are do get taken. So I'll leave that up to them. We have a lot of good football players in our system that are worthy of that kind of consideration, and where that all goes I guess we'll find out when spring rolls around and we get to that.
It's kind of like recruiting. In recruiting sometimes high school coaches don't understand what college guys see, and I think at the NFL level sometimes college guys don't see what NFL people see. So we're just going to let that play out and let them make those decisions.
As far as a game of this magnitude, scouts are very thorough in what they do. They're going to look at every game we play. They may look at this one with a little bit different light just because of the caliber of team Florida State is. Certainly our players understand that if they are in consideration for those types of opportunities when college is over with that playing well in this game will be important to them.
Q. When you first started watching the film on Florida State, what impressed you the most?
JAY NIEMANN: Well, just their overall athleticism and team speed and their balance. Again, it's a lot easier to defend an offense when maybe they're just a running football team or if they're just a passing football team. But when they present the balance that Florida State does, I think that's where your challenges come into play. They're putting up about 460 yards a game, just a little over 200 on the ground and about 260 through the air. So again, that's the thing that jumps out at you. They can move the ball a variety of ways with a lot of different people.
So with multiple weapons that creates issues within your game plan that make it more difficult than when there's maybe only one or two star players on the team.
Q. As a follow‑up, are you trying to make them‑‑ do you kind of go in figuring they're going to get some yardage, you just have to make them work for it or try to stop what you can and if you give up a big play here and there it happens?
JAY NIEMANN: Well, I don't think we go into a game ever feeling like we want to give up a big play, and I'm sure that's not what your implying, but we're going to try to make them earn what they get, and that doesn't mean we won't take our chances here and there as far as blitzing, doing the things that you might have to do to get out of a down‑and‑distance situation and try to force them to punt the ball so you can get off the field and get your offense back on the field with good field position. That just has to be determined by down and distance and field position situations and some of those types of things.
But we've got to tackle well in space. We've got to leverage the ball well. We've got to make sure that if they get yards they're yards that are earned, and we can't let runs break out, we can't let balls be thrown over our head, what we call explosive plays. We really have to limit those.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Chris Nee of 247Sports.com. You can follow me on twitter @CNee247.
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Northern Illinois Defensive Coordinator - Jay Niemann
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