Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Michigan Replaces Al Borges with Doug Nussmeier at Offensive Coordinator Position

The 2013 version of Michigan's offense resembles a familiar collection of large players set on playing a physical brand of football.  Michigan's offense, however, did not experience anything even nearing familiar results from what is generally regarded as a disastrous season.  At times, Michigan's offense ran fluidly and executed the plays that were called, which was evidenced during shoot outs with Indiana and Ohio State.  The Wolverines was crippled at other times as Michigan failed to rush for positive yardage in multiple games and looked relatively inept and unwilling to change at other times.  The Wolverines turned in a marginal attempt at cultivating any semblance of offense in 2013, checking in at No. 46 nationally in scoring offense, No. 51 in passing offense and No. 103 in rushing offense.   These results are notably sub-par compared to the expectations of a dominant Michigan offense.

Former Michigan OC Al Borges
Much of the criticism fell on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Al Borges.  Michigan chooses not to carry a quarterback coach because Borges preferred to have an influential approach with installing the Michigan offense with his hand-picked quarterbacks.  As the primary play caller, Borges operated from the booth during the season, which may have played a role in his mid-game adjustments.  When combined with a predictable strategy of play calling in order to compensate for a failed running game, Michigan's offense was wildly inconsistent.

The turbulent results that the Wolverines experienced in 2013 were deemed unacceptable and a statement released by the University of Michigan detailed this staffing move:
"ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- University of Michigan head football coach Brady Hoke announced today (Wednesday, Jan. 8) that offensive coordinator Al Borges will not be retained for the 2014 season.  
"Decisions like these are never easy," said Hoke.  "I have a great amount of respect for Al as a football coach and, more importantly, as a person.  I appreciate everything he has done for Michigan football for the last three seasons."
Prior to joining U-M in 2011, Borges was a member of Hoke's staff at San Diego State in 2009 and '10.  
The Wolverines will begin spring practice on Feb. 25, and finish with the annual Spring Game on Saturday, April 5, at Michigan Stadium."

This move was unexpected in the sense that there were no clues Al Borges would be without a job on January 8, but there were signs that he would be removed from his position at OC sooner rather than later.  The M Block has received word that as many as four coaches may not return next year.  Not all moves are expected to be firings, however, as these moves come from a variety of reasons.  Borges was a likely candidate to receive a critical review and this was the final straw in his tenure at Michigan.

With the recently-vacant offensive coordinator position at Michigan up for grabs, Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is expected to assume the same role for the Wolverines.  This move is going to be the most important coaching staff decision made during the Brady Hoke era up to this point, and the success of Michigan's offense next year (as well as the program in general) will be crucial in keeping this staff intact.
New Michigan OC Doug Naussmeier

As a former quarterback that experienced a good deal of success in both college and the NFL before beginning his career as an offensive-minded coach.  Nussmeier has had control of offenses in the CFL, the NFL and in college as part of his laundry-list of coaching experience.  One interesting element of his history is that Nussmeier is not a stranger to living in Michigan, as he was the quarterback coach for Michigan State from 2003-2005.

Since taking the reigns of Alabama's offense in 2012, Nussmeier has been fitted with a wealth of talented options at all positions.  What makes him a good potential fit for the Michigan job is that he runs a very balanced offense, one which incorporates a bit of everything.  Michigan is certainly sticking with the pro-style formula of offense that they have developed in Ann Arbor since 2011 and Nussmeier looks like the guy to further implement this scheme for the Wolverines in 2014.

Several names have come up as potential options at offensive coordinator, but a couple have stood out as the most likely to make a lateral move and assume the OC job at Michigan.  The first option that everyone was aware of is LSU's Cam Cameron.  Keeping in line with the narrative that a 'Michigan Man' is preferred over a candidate without ties to the University, Cameron is as well-connected to the Wolverines as any coach on their radar.

Cameron began his coaching career in Ann Arbor as a graduate assistant in 1983. and would have made sense for the hire.  From here, Cameron stayed on the Michigan staff for 10 years in some capacity, moving on to wide receiver coach and eventually quarterback coach.  During his time at Michigan, Cameron helped mentor many great athlete that went on to have success in the NFL.  Cameron then bounced around between gigs with the Washington Redskins, Indiana Hoosiers, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and Baltimore Ravens before landing with the LSU Tigers last year in 2013.  The LSU offense last year was far superior to anything that Borges could generate at Michigan- to say the least.  LSU ranked No. 24 in points for, No. 29 in rushing yards and No. 44 in passing yards.

It is clear that Cameron can work with the talent he is given and he would receive a depth chart of players that should fall into a very well-designed system.  Cameron orchestrated an offense that allowed quarterback Zach Mettenberger to turn in a 64% completion rate on nearly 300 passes and over 3,000 yards with 22 touchdowns.  This fantastic season was complimented by a more than capable running attack that featured two halfbacks who combined for over 2,000 yards (Jeremy Hill 1,401 and Terrence McGee 626).  The dynamic pair also combined for 22 touchdowns.  This means LSU was able to generate 44 touchdowns between three offensive players, which is quite a feat in a tough SEC conference.

One element of his coaching history that may play in Michigan's favor is Cameron's history with the Baltimore Ravens.  It is well-known that defensive coordinator Greg Mattison helped captain a dominant Ravens defense and he coached alongside Cameron for three years from 2008-2010.  This connection is another potential reason for Cameron to assume what would likely be the same position as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach that he currently assumes at LSU.

Although Cameron was a logical pick, he will not be the next offensive coordinator, and neither will Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler.  Many remember Loeffler from his playing career at Michigan from 1993-96.  Loeffler then served on the Michigan staff as a graduate assistant and part-time quarterbacks coach until 2001.  After a two-year stint at Central Michigan, Loeffler returned to Michigan, again at QB coach and remained in that role until 2007.

Since leaving Michigan one last time in '07, Loeffler operated in a QB coach / offensive coordinator capacity for Florida, Temple and Auburn before landing at Virginia Tech in 2013.  The Hokies did not experience very much success on offense this year and ended the season with marks that were fairly similar to Michigan's.  A near-50% completion rate and almost even TD-to-INT numbers (16/13) from quarterback Logan Thomas plagued the Virginia Tech offense and handcuffed what they were able to do, as VT ranked No. 101 in points for, No. 109 in rushing yards and No. 61 in passing yards.  This level of mediocrity would not be acceptable if Loeffler were to join Michigan, but the Wolverines appear to be in a much better position moving forward than Virginia Tech is in.

The departure of a member of the Michigan staff will always have a notable impact on recruiting, especially when it involved a position as important as offensive coordinator.  With the news about Borges' firing coming out a little over four hours ago, I reached out to several players regarding the impact this will have on Michigan in their eyes.  I focused mainly on junior QBs as they would be handled closely by Borges should they so choose the Wolverines in the future.  Borges has spent extensive time recruiting three quarterback prospects in Alex Malzone (Brother Rice/MI), Riley Neal (Yorktown/IN) and Kyle Kearns (Foothill/CA).

Living in the state of Michigan, Malzone may have been able to keep a closer ear to the ground than some of Michigan's other targets.  This may have allowed for Alex to keep in mind that Borges' future at Michigan might be close to expiring.  "I was pretty surprised," said Malzone.  "But based on the year they had, some change was expected."  Alex also mentioned that he saw some things that needed adjustment in the Michigan offense, which is something that the Wolverines hope to correct by making this move.

Once he found out that Nussmeier would be taking the OC job at Michigan, Malzone seemed excited to hear of this news and mentioned that it did increase his interest in the Wolverines.  "Oh yeah, definitely," said Malzone.  "With the success he's had at Alabama, definitely."

Riley Neal, who has been primarily recruited by Borges up to this point, was also caught off guard by Borges' firing.  "Just surprised overall," said Neal.  While Borges is the main coach he has been hearing from, Riley has also developed a good relationship with head coach Brady Hoke, wide receiver coach Jeff Hecklinski and recruiting assistant Danny Ifft.

Neal expanded on how this move could effect his interest in Michigan moving forward.  "I guess it just depends on who they hire and what offense they bring in.  I thought their offense under-performed for sure.  Not saying it was Borges' fault, though."  Neal mentioned that he would like to see an OC who favors pro-style quarterbacks and that this move certainly has not hurt Michigan's chances with him.  After Nussmeier was announced as the guy at Michigan, Neal evaluated the hire as a good decision for the Michigan staff moving forward.

Foothill quarterback Kyle Kearns was also surprised to hear about this development, going as far as saying he was "shocked."  During our conversation regarding this move, Kearns said he was curious as to who will be replacing Borges and that he will be monitoring the situation closely, noting that he hopes the new offensive coordinator is a pro-style guy.

Kearns' wish for a pro-style coach came true as Nussmeier, the engineer of a very balanced attack at Alabama, was named the new offensive coordinator.  Kearns already has a strong relationship with coach Nussmeier and this looks to help the Wolverines in Kearns' case.  "I'm really good friends with coach Nuss.  He's a great guy- pro-style.  I look forward to talking to him soon."

While Eldorado High junior signal caller Zach Gentry has been receiving steady contact from the Wolverines, he was also unaware that such a move could be on the horizon.  "I was really surprised," said Gentry.  "I hadn't really heard any speculation on whether or not he would return, so it was a bit of a shock to see today."  Even with this move, Gentry maintains a strong interest in the Michigan program that will be unaffected by this move.  "Regardless of the staff, Michigan is still a great program with so many great upsides and tradition."

Gentry foreshadowed Michigan's hire well, as Gentry is an accomplished coach that fits the mold of what Michigan is trying to do very well.  Zach spoke on what he thought about the Wolverines' latest hire.  "I think he is a good fit at Michigan," said Gentry.  "I'd like to see him continue to run the ball a good amount.  I liked the way he ran things at Alabama because he makes it easy on the quarterback with play action."

As another top target of the Michigan staff, Gonzaga quarterback Nick Johns isn't very worried by the news that Borges is on his way out.  "It didn't mean much," said Johns.  "I know that they will fill the spot with a great coach.  Just someone who runs a balanced offense with a little bit of everything integrated into the system."  In terms of what he would personally like to see from the next Michigan OC, Johns thinks he may fit in with whoever they choose.  "They have a great running and throwing quarterback now, so they should hire someone that molds his skill set.  I think mine is similar."  Johns and I were discussing what he would like from Michigan's next OC when the Nussmeier news was announced and had a few ideas on what he would like to see.  "I wouldn't necessarily say open, but I would like a mix of pro style and read option."
2015 Gonzaga QB Nick Johns

Johns spoke highly of Loeffler and said he would be excited be that potential move.  "I think he's a great coach and they are very similar in the types of offensive schemes they each run."  Johns, however, was not as familiar with Nussmeier and said he would have to build that relationship going forward.  "I've never really talked with him.  I guess we will have to see."

Centennial junior quarterback Jimmy Fitzgerald also weighed in on the surprising news of Borges' departure.  He says that it does not affect his feelings on Michigan at the moment.  "Not so much," said Fitzgerald.  "It's still a great school with great academics and athletics."  Regardless of who the next hire is, Michigan will be in it for Fitzgerald.

I also touched base with 2014 linebacker commit Jared Wangler, who shared his thoughts on the development that Borges would not be returning for his freshman season after building a relationship with him up to this point.  Wangler's commitment to Michigan remains firm and he expressed this in clear form.  "Pretty shocked, but coach Hoke's job is to do what's best for the program," said Wangler.  "If this is what he sees fit then I'm not worried."  After word broke that Nussmeier would be the guy, Wangler said, "It's a great fit from what I've heard."


  1. I am still jacked up about UM hiring Nussmeier. This hire should shut guys like me up for awhile.

     I am hoping this hire will bring George Campbell back to UM and stop all the rumors of RB D. Harris de-committing.

    I also would not be surprised if he brings in all newO line, WR and RB coaches.

    Does anybody else think UM hired their next head coach?

  2. Hallelujah! After hearing Brady Hoke say that he was going to keep his entire staff I figured that 2014 would be as bad or worse (if you can imagine that) than 2013. Talent and youth were not the main problem. Michigan has perennially had top recruiting classes. MSU almost always ranks far below UM in recruiting yet they have dominated the Wolverines for almost a decade. And they came one bad loss (ND) away from playing for the national title. That's coaching. I'm glad that they got away from that "Michigan Man" nonsense and hired someone whose main qualification is his coaching skills. I wouldn't mind seeing Mattison go too.

  3. For the record MSU has only won the 3 years transitioning to the spread with RR then 2/3 years back to the pro style with hoke. Other than that we've dominated them!

    1. But they have won 5 of the last 6 and the one UM win was another Denard Robinson miracle comeback where he completed a 4th down pass and spiked the ball with 9 seconds left to set up a FG. UM never crossed the goal line in that game. My point was that the last time MSU had a better recruiting class than UM was probably in the Duffy Daugherty era. So, at least on paper, UM has had better talent on their roster for a very long time. When you lose 5 of 6 with better talent that is coaching.

  4. And can't be mad about losing to them this year the way they handled everybody! Without those pass interference calls against ND they would have went to the NC game. Their DC has them playing very well. Props are in order.

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