Northern Illinois Rod Carey will be on the sideline for the first time as a head coach.
Florida States D.J. Eliot will be on the sideline for the first time as a defensive coordinator. And the Seminoles also welcome Sal Sunseri, a defensive assistant who has been on Florida States staff just two weeks.
Bowl games by nature feature shake-ups, as coaches take jobs elsewhere. But its unusual that it occurs for both teams in a BCS bowl game and it could be a significant storyline when Florida State (11-2) and Northern Illinois (12-1) face off in the Orange Bowl on Tuesday night.
For Carey, its been a whirlwind month. The Huskies won the MAC championship on the last day of November, a Friday. Coach Dave Doeren accepted the job at NC State the next day, and Carey was immediately asked to take over.
I dont sleep much now, Carey said. You can tell my voice is going because of it, so it is what it is.
Carey began the season as the offensive line coach. But then offensive coordinator Mike Dunbar took leave from the team as he fights cancer, and Carey stepped in and also filled his role, too.
Every opportunity Rod has had to step up and make a difference in our program, he has done it, NIU athletic director Jeff Compher said. Whether developing a young, untested offensive line or stepping in as the offensive coordinator and play-caller in the second game of the season, he has responded with poise and professionalism.
Florida State has also been adjusting responsibilities, especially on the defensive side of the ball, in the days after the Seminoles win in the ACC championship game on Dec. 1. Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops has become the head coach at Kentucky, and while he offered to return and help Florida State in the Orange Bowl, he found the job in Lexington took up the majority of his time.
Defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot will step in and be Florida States defensive coordinator for the bowl game essentially giving him a one-game warm-up for a position that he will soon hold when he follows Stoops to Lexington and becomes the Wildcats defensive coordinator.
Eliot has never been a defensive coordinator, but he is an assistant whom Fisher and Stoops trust. When Florida State was preparing for Georgia Techs triple-option offense, Stoops leaned on Eliot to create a game plan for the Yellow Jackets because Eliot has more experience facing that type of offense. And it worked. Florida State held Georgia Tech 140 rushing yards below its season average in the 21-15 Seminoles win.
Fisher says that Florida States practices have been the same and that the defensive players have responded to Eliot well.
Hes real detailed, Fisher said. With every guy he goes through their assignment on every single spot. Hell make sure you have it down. Everyone out on the field is going to know their assignment.
Lately, Eliot has been burning the candle at both ends, recruiting student-athletes for Kentucky while also preparing Florida States players in practice and developing a game plan for Northern Illinois.
I think I broke a record on airline miles, Eliot said. It's been very busy. You know what I mean? It's been very busy. I've had a lot of responsibilities on both ends, and there hasn't been much downtime at all. I've still got a task at hand, so I'm still in that mode. You know, it's been exciting, but it's also been challenging to manage two jobs.
Managing two jobs in two states is one thing. But its hard to tell who is juggling more: Eliot or Carey.
The NIU coach is retaining three jobs offensive line coach, offensive coordinator and head coach heading into the bowl game. Hed rather pile the responsibilities on his shoulders than have others around him change because of his promotion.
I'm going to call this game, Carey said. 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 (offensive coordinator). 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.
Still, the changes are sure to have an impact on Tuesdays game. How the players react to those changes will go a long way in deciding the winner of the Orange Bowl.