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FSU assistant coach says NIU has NFL talent

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Friday morning marked the first press conferences of Orange Bowl week.

Florida State offensive coordinator James Coley took the podium first, while several Florida State players were available after, and Northern Illinois defensive coordinator Jay Niemann was the Huskies’ coaching representative.

In addition, NIU players Jimmie Ward, Tyrone Clark, Victor Jacques, Sean Progar and Demetrius Stone spoke to the media.

Coley had some pretty nice praise for NIU’s defense, saying it’s a well-coached unit which plays extremely hard. He even mentioned how there’s NFL talent there.

“But you have certain players that are extremely [talented], that are good. They’re going to play on the next level off of their defense. [Alan Baxter], defensive end, [Ken Bishop], defensive tackle, those guys are real good players,” Coley said. “The middle linebacker is a tough kid from Miami, Victor [Jacques], and I think he went to Christopher Columbus. Hard-nosed kids. They have the right 11 playing.

“So that’s what we’re facing. We’re facing a team that’s going to come out there, and they’re going to be willing to bloody their noses and get after you and play all 60 minutes.”

Some other notes from Friday’s news conference:

• Huskies head coach Rod Carey has an offensive background, and Carey said he isn’t too involved with the defensive planning. Niemann said that this far into the season, the defense is pretty set so it wouldn’t have been any different if Dave Doeren were still around.

“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,” Niemann said. “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.”

• Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel is certainly a player NIU’s defense will have its eye on. Manuel will also be playing his last game as a Seminole while his mother battles cancer, something he talked about playing through.

“She is doing well. My mom has a good tone of voice when I call her, since I can’t see her during the season,” he said. “I can tell how she’s feeling, if she’s having a rough day or a good day. My mom has done a great job. It was tough, but I can’t allow it to be a deterrent in what I do. My mom didn’t want that to be a reason to cause me not to play well.”

• The Orange Bowl is a huge game for the Huskies. That fact cannot be understated at all. NIU defensive end Sean Progar talked about how big the game is for NIU, but said the team isn’t worried about pressure.

“We feel like we aren’t the team with the pressure. We made it here and we are already doubted, so when it comes down to it, we want to come out here. We are having fun out here, practicing hard,” Progar said. “We are going to come into the game with our game plan and execute it to our best abilities. When it comes down to it we know that if we put our best foot forward, we will be alright.”

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