Goss: Mike Uremovich joins NIU staff at perfect time
December 21, 2012 7:08PM
Former University of St. Francis coach Mike Uremovich, who spent the magical 2012 season on Dave Doeren's staff at Northern Illinois, is accompanying Doeren to North Carolina State, where he will be the offensive line coach. | Supplied photo
Updated: January 24, 2013 6:39AM
Let it never be said Mike Uremovich does not have impeccable timing.
The former University of St. Francis football coach left in 2011 after leading the Saints to their most successful season. In his seventh year at St. Francis, the Saints won a school-record 10 games, claimed their first win over an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision team when they defeated Georgia State, advanced to the NAIA playoffs for the first time in 24 years and earned their first playoff victory.
Uremovich decided to take the step up into the NCAA Division I ranks as the running backs coach and special-teams coordinator on Dave Doeren’s staff at Northern Illinois. And now here he is, preparing for a trip to Miami for the Jan. 1 Discover Orange Bowl against Florida State.
“We leave for Florida the day after Christmas,” he said. “And, yes, it is fun for me to say to all my buddies at all the other schools (especially in Illinois) that we’re the best.”
When Northern Illinois was announced as a BCS Bowl qualifier, critics came out firing. Do the Huskies belong in a BCS bowl? According to the established guidelines, they do.
“Fortunately, I was not leaving for my recruiting trip until Monday,” Uremovich said of the Dec. 9 revealing of the bowl pairings on national television. “I was able to be at the team meeting with my wife and kids, and it’s something I will never forget. How excited everyone was that we were getting a chance to play in that game.”
As for the criticism, Uremovich said, “All our guys did was go out and win 12 games in a row (after a season-opening 18-17 loss to Iowa). We won a ton of close games, and that speaks to the character of our kids. Coach (Dave) Doeren kept us focused all year.”
Doeren, though, will not be coaching in the Orange Bowl. He accepted the head coaching position at North Carolina State immediately after the Huskies won the MAC championship over Kent State. Former offensive coordinator Rod Carey is NIU’s head coach. The future of the rest of the staff will be determined after the bowl game.
“Coach Carey jumped right in and has done a great job,” Uremovich said. “He is focused on Florida State.
“We knew we would be in a bowl game, it just happens to be the Orange Bowl. We are treating it as just another game that we want to go out and win.”
Early lines had the Huskies as underdogs by more than two touchdowns. But they relish the chance to earn respect not only for their school, but for the MAC.
“Being where we are is a great accomplishment for our program, and it’s great for the MAC to be recognized with a BCS bid,” Uremovich said.
A Providence graduate, Uremovich previously worked as a graduate assistant at NIU for former coach Joe Novak. He said the familiarity helped him hit the ground running in spring practice.
NIU is ranked ninth in the nation in rushing yards and three of the four special teams units are in the top 20, two in the top 10. So Uremovich’s areas of attention are producing.
“It’s not just me coaching the special teams,” he said. “All the assistants have a hand in it. Coach Doeren made a commitment to special teams. I always worked with special teams at St. Francis, too.”
Two key members of the NIU special teams are junior Dominique Ware (Plainfield North), who also sees time in the secondary, and freshman Perez Ford (Romeoville).
“Perez Ford is one of our best special-teams players,” Uremovich said. “Dominique Ware is on just about all the teams, too, and he contributes defensively.”
When Uremovich is not coaching, he recruits his area.
“I have Will County and I-80 south,” he said. “Those are all schools I’ve been recruiting forever. I really like recruiting, getting to know kids and their families, and getting kids who will be a good fit.
“Our staff puts a lot into the character of the kid on the field, what type of person a kid is, just like we did it at St. Francis.”
Uremovich always said there is minimal difference between kids playing on various levels. Good players are good players.
“There are lots of guys in NAIA who could have played D-I football, but for whatever reason they never got the chance,” he said. “There are great players at every level. Gannon Novak and Clayton Norberg, who I was fortunate to have at St. Francis, could have played anywhere.”
NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch, a junior, has accounted for an astounding 4,733 yards, including 1,771 rushing.
“Jordan is great player and even a better kid,” Uremovich said. “He’s a tough, hard-working kid and a tremendous leader. And you know what, Jordan is running the exact same stuff that E.J. (White) runs well at St. Francis. It’s very similar.”
Lynch played at Mount Carmel, and he will be joined at the Orange Bowl by scores of home-state teammates.
“The greatest thing about this game is we have 50 to 60 Illinois high school players playing in the Orange Bowl,” Uremovich said. “That’s never happened. High school coaches in our state will get to see their players in the Orange Bowl.
“We don’t have to go out of state for that many kids because of the talent we have here.”
Uremovich said as special as the bowl game will be, there are times he misses being a head coach.
“There’s good and bad with both jobs,” he said. “At times I miss being a head coach and times I’m glad not to be the head coach.
“I’ll say this, I really enjoyed being an assistant this year. I can’t say enough about learning under coach Doeren. This was a great year to be an assistant here.”