ANN ARBOR — By the time the Michigan football program officially announced Doug Nussmeier’s hire in January, Devin Gardner had already received a quick debriefing of the new assistant coach.
“Archie Manning texted me and said, ‘he’s a great guy,’ ” said Gardner, UM’s quarterback. “Everyone spoke so highly of him."
The former NFL quarterback and father of NFL QBs Peyton and Eli Manning was one of many who publicly and privately vouched for Nussmeier, Michigan’s new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. His hire is a splashy one for Michigan, as his pay of $830,000 a year puts him among the top-10 paid FBS coordinators in the country.
In replacing Al Borges, Nussmeier has the charge of rehabilitating an offense that sputtered in the second half of a 7-6 season. Michigan’s offense finished 10th in the Big Ten and 86th nationally with 373.5 yards a game in 2013. The offensive line allowed Gardner to be sacked 34 times and in a four-game stretch in November, UM accrued 454 yards, including minus-69 yards in losses to Michigan State and Nebraska.
Everything about 2013, tight end Devin Funchess said, was unacceptable.
“We’re not looking to do that again,” Funchess said.
Nussmeier wouldn’t give away specifics of what he plans to do with the offense, but said this much: both Gardner and Shane Morris will compete for the starting quarterback job, and he hasn’t ruled out using more than one running back.
“The first thing you try to do is evaluate your roster and look at things you can do well, and what maybe you can’t do as well that you would like to do,” Nussmeier said. “So that’s a big key, but you have to start from a teaching premise. You have to start from the base system.
“So maybe some of the plays that we’re running here in the first day or two may not be major as we move forward, but they’re the base of the foundation. You’ve got to start with the foundation and then we’ll grow from there.”
A former NFL and CFL quarterback who coached at Michigan State, Fresno State, and Washington, Nussmeier established himself as a savvy recruiter. As Alabama’s offensive coordinator the last two seasons, he oversaw a big-play offense that helped Alabama win a BCS title in January of 2013.
Furthermore, Nussmeier is a former Idaho quarterback at Idaho who won the Walter Payton Award in 1993 as Division I-AA’s top player and is known for grooming quarterbacks.
Most recently, Nussmeier worked with A.J. McCarron at Alabama; in two seasons under Nussmeier, McCarron finished with 5,996 yards, 58 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions — and two BCS championships.
While they both got limited time with Nussmeier since his January hire, the first thing that both Gardner and Funchess noticed about Nussmeier was his energy. The second thing Gardner noticed about Nussmeier came last week in the first spring practice.
“It was probably the fastest practice I’ve ever been a part of,” Gardner said. “Coach Nuss definitely pushes the tempo, makes sure we get to the ball fast, do everything we need to do, and then get the ball hiked. And sometimes, we just go hurry-up, to get more reps.”
That’s Nussmeier’s agenda this spring.
“The biggest thing for me is how fast and how well our players grasp what we’re doing,” Nussmeier said. “You can have a hundred different plays, but if you can’t execute five of them, they’re not worth having a hundred. So we’ll go as fast as our players can go. Like I’ve said, they’ve worked extremely hard. We have a bright group of young men. I think they’ll grasp it very quickly.”
NFF BANQUET: Michigan coach Brady Hoke will be the keynote speaker at the National Football Foundation’s 52nd annual Scholar-Athlete Dinner at the SeaGate Center at 6:30 p.m. on Monday and sponsored by the NFF’s Toledo Wistert Chapter.
A social hour at 5:30 p.m. precedes the dinner, which will honor 37 high school football players and 15 high school football coaches from the Toledo area.
Tickets for the event are $50 per person and $450 for a table of 10. Tickets can be purchased by calling Team Sports at 419-865-8326.