Dienhart: What does new OC mean for Michigan?

It looks like Michigan already has hired a new offensive coordinator, as reports indicate Brady Hoke has tabbed Alabama’s Doug Nussmeier. That didn’t take long. Actually, it obviously likely has been in the works for a bit. The chair in deposed coordinator Al Borges’ office is still warm. Heck, pictures of his kids may still be on his desk.

As I said in my analysis of Borges’ firing yesterday, Michigan’s next offensive coordinator wasn’t going to be a radical hire. Hoke wasn’t going to bring in a guy who had one of those whacky go-go offenses that was going to be widely divergent from Borges’ largely West Coast system. Nussmeier’s hire is proof of that.

When you think of Alabama, you think of many things. “Cutting-edge offense” isn’t one of them. The Crimson Tide’s attack is as wild and crazy as a pair of your grandpa’s wing tips. The Tide offense is from a black-and-white era when men wore skinny ties and crew cuts and drank martinis at lunch.

A pass on third-and-3? Crazy, man. Crazy. Hand off left … hand off right … hand of up the middle is more like it. In fact, it’s the Holy Trinity in Tuscaloosa.

Sure, Nussmeier was doing what he was told by Saban. Nussmeier brings a nice resume to Ann Arbor that includes pushing the buttons on some fancy passing attacks.

The former NFL quarterback has worked in the CFL and NFL with the Rams, where he coached signal-callers. He also has been a coordinator in the college ranks with Fresno State and Washington, in addition to pushing the buttons on Saban’s attack the last two seasons. Working with Saban can be, uh, demanding. I’m guessing Nussmeier’s two seasons probably seemed like 10 and he felt it was time to spread his wings. Why else would you leave the best program in college football to jump on this Michigan ship? Exactly. Is this even a lateral move for Nussmeier?

Michigan’s 2014 schedule
Date Opponent
Sat., Aug. 30 vs. Appalachian State
Sat., Sep. 6 at Notre Dame
Sat., Sep. 13 vs. Miami (Ohio)
Sat., Sep. 20 vs. Utah
Sat., Sep. 27 vs. Minnesota
Sat., Oct. 4 at Rutgers
Sat., Oct. 11 vs. Penn State
Sat., Oct. 25 at Michigan State
Sat., Nov. 1 vs. Indiana – Homecoming
Sat., Nov. 8 at Northwestern
Sat., Nov. 22 vs. Maryland
Sat., Nov. 29 at Ohio State

And you know Nussmeier will be paid a fat wad of cash for his services. Borges was the highest paid Big Ten offensive coordinator and ninth-highest paid assistant in the nation last season with a salary of $700,000. See the list right here.

Nussmeier was the No. 12 paid assistant in America with a $680,000 salary. You know he’s getting a raise to move and to walk into a situation that isn’t exactly stable, as Hoke likely faces a win-big-or-else season in 2014.

Regardless, let’s move on. …

Nussmeier, 43, has Big Ten experience, too, coaching quarterbacks at Michigan State from 2003-05 under John L. Smith (yes, THAT John L. Smith), whose offense could be … colorful, just like John L.

So, there’s a lot to like about Nussmeier, who he did a nice job developing A.J. McCarron at Alabama. That has to pump up Devin Gardner and Shane Morris. No doubt the arrival of Nussmeier will excite Michigan fans. And that’s what this is about, people. But, he’s not bringing a philosophy that’s gonna shake up the Big Ten with a scheme that’s like Clemson, Oregon, Texas Tech or Auburn.

But certainly Nussmeier’s has teaching skills that are different—and presumably better—than Borges’. And sometimes, just hearing similar stuff from a different voice extracts change. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Who knows?

I do know this: Nussmeier had some big-time talent to work with at Alabama, especially along the offensive line. That helped make his Xs and Os work better. Michigan’s offensive line? Well, you know. … I wonder how Borges would have done as Alabama’s coordinator last year and how Nussmeier would have done as Michigan’s play-caller.

Never mind. I don’t want to ruin it for you.

As I said before, the Michigan offense figured to improve in 2014 based solely on many young players continuing to mature and develop. Was Borges stubborn? Could he have done some things differently? Yes and yes. But this change at coordinator was made more to appease a restless fan base than to shake up the Michigan offensive philosophy.

Nussmeier will have his unique wrinkles and what-not. But I’m guessing the Wolverine attack basically will be built around running the ball. And, if the numbers and win totals increase in 2014, Nussmeier will be hailed as a “genius” and may race off to be a head coach somewhere. And Hoke will be lauded as a forward-thinker who took bold, swift action to save his program by canning Borges and grabbing Nussmeier from college football’s “it” program.

It’s a great storyline, isn’t it?  I can’t wait to look back on this hire in a year.


About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Your Opinion?
Show Comments (7 Comments)
Nick on 1/9/2014 @ 11:33am EDT Said:

Boil up Tom! Boy you sure call it like you see it from a Pudon’t perspective! Keep the hits coming.

What is your problem with Michigan?

huskerfanbb on 1/9/2014 @ 12:04pm EDT Said:

I don’t see this being a huge change. Yes, he’s had success, but his offense isn’t that much different that Al Borges. Probably a little more emphasis on running the ball and a little less on the pro-style passing attack, but it’s not like going from the pro-style attack Borges has been trying to run with Rich Rod’s spread players–to a spread offense.
It’s also not like Michigan didn’t TRY to run the ball last year–they were just really bad at it. Not sure a coordinator is going to infuse “toughness” into the O-line or the stable of backs. That has to come from the head coach and position coaches.
Borges probably had to go, and Nussmeier has had a lot of success at Alabama, I’m just skeptical that this will be a quick turnaround, especially if they need to start over at QB.

Old Man and the Sea on 1/9/2014 @ 12:13pm EDT Said:

I think Nussmeier is seeing the writing on the wall. Facts are, Saban is not going to get better as a coach from now on. He will be 63 this year, I don’t expect him to just hit a switch and know more. McCarron will be gone, and he could be the best Bama QB ever. Bama is paying Saban a boat load of money, they are married to him for a long term. The program will be on a decline, now I am not saying they will barely win 6 games from now on. But they aren’t going to be world beaters either. In Michigan Nussmeier has a much younger coach, in an easier conference. Why not? Plus, as mentioned in the article, I don’t think working for Saban is the most fun you can have.

C Orem on 1/9/2014 @ 1:45pm EDT Said:

He was getting pushed out at Bama. I mean they brought in Lane Kiffin for a week to help the offense. Seems more lack a lateral move although I agree Borges had to go

mark on 1/9/2014 @ 1:47pm EDT Said:

What does it mean? It means Hoke was forced to dump Borges and does not have the same control over the program he once had. Had he been in control this move would have been done right after that pathetic showing at their bowl game. Sounds like Hoke better be on his guard as well.

Danielle Simon on 1/10/2014 @ 10:01am EDT Said:

I can’t believe people don’t see what the difference is here. Our problem with Borges was he was a lousy play caller, not his offensive style. We are hoping Nussmeier will do a better job with play calling. It’s not like every running play is the same regardless of the coordinator in a pro-style O. I agree Michigan needs to change something with the O-line and think Funk should be fired, as well. But hopefully Michigan’s play calling will at least be better.

Robert Borders on 1/10/2014 @ 7:54pm EDT Said:

Seriously doubt that replacement of OC will matter much. Scenario was team was young…granted. There was little evidence however, that team was improving. No penetration from defense other than Frank Clark. Offensive line nonexistent and team lacked any emotion. I hard for me to imagine that this was all on AB. Most of the bowl games I watched this year had head coaches which were at least wearing head sets and appeared to be somewhat interested. No more excuses,one more year where results match inflated payrolls and ticket price increases.