By Ashley Dunkak
ANN ARBOR (CBS DETROIT) – Looking as much like a CEO as a football coach, new Michigan offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier took the podium in a suit and tie Thursday and spoke with charisma and ease, smiling as his wife and adorable children sat in the front row, optimistically fielding questions on how he would help right a proud Michigan football team that in 2013 finished just 7-6 and lost in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
“We’re 11 points away from being 11-1, so it’s a good football team here with good talent,” Nussmeier said. “There’s young talent on this team. We’ve got to develop it. We’ve got 45, 46 days before we go to spring football, so getting those young players on the same page and player developments, it’s all about how you view it, and with any young player, there’s a steep learning curve, so day to day continuing to improve, that’s going to be the focus.”
Nussmeier, formerly the offensive coordinator for Alabama, has helped developed an impressive list of quarterbacks, most recently Heisman Trophy candidate A.J. McCarron. Nussmeier will also be the quarterbacks coach for the Wolverines and ideally can help 2013 starter Devin Gardner.
Gardner, who is still on crutches following a foot injury not revealed publicly until after Michigan’s one-point loss to Ohio State in the season finale, struggled last season. Early on, he threw too many interceptions, some a result of poor decision-making. As he appeared to hold the ball longer to avoid turnovers, Gardner had two straight games in which he took a combined 14 sacks. He looked solid against the Buckeyes but could not play in the bowl game.
Whether Gardner will be the unquestioned starter leading into 2014 is uncertain. Shane Morris performed fairly well in the bowl game, and Nussmeier mentioned that Alabama had recruited Morris. The coordinator said he looks forward to getting to work with the passers.
“You talk about the quarterback position, the great quarterbacks who have played here, go down the list – [Tom] Brady, [Brian] Griese, Denard Robinson, Chad Henne. It’s Quarterback U, so to say,” Nussmeier raved. “The ability to be a part of that room here and help those guys develop and grow, just really, really excited about that opportunity.
“The biggest thing, I think, from a quarterback standpoint, is trying to simulate a game-type environment for them Sunday through Friday because when you get on the field on Saturday, things happen fast. If you’re not prepared, you can get exposed very quickly, so you never want to put a quarterback on the field that’s not prepared.”
As much as he anticipates helping the quarterbacks, Nussmeier knows their commitment is as key to success as his is.
“The biggest thing is the amount of time we spend together in that meeting room, and obviously we’re limited by NCAA rules,” Nussmeier said. “It’s real important at that position that players possess a quality of self-determination. They’ve got to be self-starters, they’ve got to be driven because you have to do a lot on your own because we just don’t have the time that you would like with the NCAA rules.”
All in all, Nussmeier looked thrilled to be coming to Michigan.
“This is a special place, a special, special place,” he said, “and that’s why we’re here.”