Friday, April 18, 2014
Nussmeier brings energy to Michigan
By Brian Bennett
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Time will tell whether Doug Nussmeier can fix Michigan's offense and finally install the kind of pro-style, power running game that Brady Hoke has talked about for the past four years.
One thing, however, appears certain: Whether Nussmeier succeeds or fails won't be because of a lack of energy.
Doug Nussmeier added some energy to Michigan's spring practices.
The Wolverines' offense probably needed a shot of adrenaline after last season's highly inconsistent performance and lackluster showing in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl loss to Kansas State. Their first-year coordinator was there to provide that jolt during the team's 15 spring practices, as his voice often was the loudest one vibrating off the Al Glick Field House walls.
"He jumps around and screams all the time," receiver Devin Funchess told ESPN.com. "I love the energy he brings to practice. We really have to match him."
Quarterback Devin Gardner called Nussmeier "an insane, crazy man" on the practice field. Offensive lineman Kyle Kalis said, "he's spunky." Nussmeier doesn't dispute those descriptions.
"We’ll exude our passion for the game," he said. "They spend so much time and energy preparing that we want to create an environment with high energy and positivity, and I think they’ve embraced that. I get excited when I get the opportunity to go out there with them on the field."
Laid-back types won't last long working under Alabama's Nick Saban, as Nussmeier did the past two seasons. His style is a little bit different than his Michigan predecessor, Al Borges. While Borges was a beloved figure around the team, he was a bit more professorial in his approach.
"He [Nussmeier] has brought in a different way of being a good football coach," Hoke said. "His passion and energy for what he does is obvious out there."
Hoke said it was very difficult to let Borges go because of their personal relationship, but he had followed Nussmeier's career for a while. He played with Nussmeier's agent while at Ball State and nearly hired Nussmeier when he took over his alma mater as head coach.
Nussmeier has simplified things in Michigan's running game, with the goal of becoming a much more north-south ground attack. The Wolverines averaged just 3.3 yards per carry last season -- second to last in the Big Ten -- and Fitz Toussaint's 648 rushing yards led the team. Nussmeier has has a 1,000-yard rusher in each of his last six seasons as coordinator, at Alabama, Washington and Fresno State.
"We want to play physical and be a balanced team," he said. "And that all starts with what you’re doing up front in the trenches and on the line of scrimmage."
That's also where Nussmeier's biggest challenge lies, as Michigan's offensive line struggled in the interior in 2013 and is relying on a lot of freshmen and sophomores in 2014. The Wolverines' season could well depend on whether those guys develop quickly this summer.
The good news is that Nussmeier isn't just all caffeine. Gardner says that while he's frantic on the field, Nussmeier is soft-spoken and direct in meeting rooms, calling him "one of the best teachers I've ever been around, including school."
Hoke concurs. Earlier this week, he praised his new assistant for his skill at teaching details and "his ability to command a room and get the attention of an offense."
There's little question that Nussmeier has the Wolverines' attention. Now it's a matter of making the necessary repairs.
"I think that’s exactly what we need," Kalis said, "A guy that's not going to accept anything but perfect."