From someone who just watched Nussmeier coordinate his team's offense for two years, do you think this was a good hire for Michigan?
I think so. A lot of Bama fans weren't very keen on Nuss (easy abbreviation) this past season but I believe a lot of those complaints were short sighted at times. Yes, Alabama had a wealth of talent and the offense never really formed an identity this year but our offense just put up over 500 yards against Oklahoma. So it's not like our offense never was able to move the ball. Our biggest complaint would probably be utilizing the TE, something Jim McElwain did really well and figuring out how to get all our talented running backs and wide receivers involved in the game. I don't want to go full bammer on you but Alabama's RB and WR depth should have made any offensive coordinator's job easy peasy yet at times certain players disappeared for games at a time.
One of Michigan's big problems under Hoke has been developing a traditional run game that can consistently gain yards. Was Nussmeier's success coordinating Bama's run game more based on the weapons at his disposal or anything he did to develop and deploy them? Should Michigan fans worry that our young OL won't be up to the task of replicating what Bama's experienced line was able to do the past couple years?
I'm not sure my answer will give you a warm and fuzzy feeling about Nuss developing talent. People will point to AJ McCarron's progression as a quarterback but much of his maturation process falls on Jim McElwain, the 'Bama offensive coordinator from 2008-2011. The offense took a large step back this year when it came to our power rushing game. If you remember last year in the SEC Championship game, Alabama was able to run at will on Georgia and the 'Bama OL in 2013 never had that type of identity. They actually pass protected rather well but struggled to open holes when 'Bama needed them the most. In years past, if Alabama was facing a 3rd and short (1-3 yards) it was automatic. I never felt like that all year.
Of course, we changed offensive line coaches and that, to me, had more effect on the offensive production than anything else. Still, player development falls on the OC and certain groups (RB and OL) took a step back in 2013.
Rumor is that Saban wasn't happy and this move was mutually agreed upon by head coach and OC. However, it didn't seem to the layman that Bama's offense changed much. What might be the reason for the rift between the two men?
That is indeed the rumor but we'll never know if it is true. I think it speaks volumes that Saban (at least as far as we know) didn't attempt to fight for Nussmeier and keep him around. His salary at 'Bama was $680,000 and his raise to $850,000 is certainly something 'Bama could handle. I could be wrong but it seemed as if Saban was indeed okay with Nuss moving on.
And you are right, our offense didn't change all that much once Nuss joined the staff but that to me is a reflection on Saban's over-all vision for the team and not a poor reflection on their relationship. Saban has a system and the OC works with-in the confines of that system. We are going to be balanced on offense and the offense will not put the defense in a precarious situation by taking risks. I believe Nussmeier was able to do exactly that which is evident by AJ's TD to INT ratio.
Will Hoke give Nussmeier more freedom?
What were your thoughts on Nussmeier's ability to develop quarterbacks. AJ McCarron spent two years under Nussmeier, did AJ improve or was he basically a finished package when Nussmeier joined the staff?
I believe I somewhat answered this above but AJ's progression as a quarterback dates back to McElwain. Nussmeier certainly had a role to play and is a big reason AJ is going to play in the NFL but there seemed to be something off with AJ all year and we never could figure out what was wrong. I don't want to place any of AJ's shortcomings on Nuss but this year just wasn't what we expected to see from the offense. Take that for what it's worth.
Are you ready for the Lane Kiffin era in Tuscaloosa?
Ha! I may be one of the few, but growing, members of the Alabama fan base that doesn't hate the idea of Lane joining the staff. I think there are guys who may fit the culture of the program better but his pedigree as an offensive coordinator, especially at USC, speaks for itself. I trust Saban and if he says Kiffin is the guy, then who am I to argue?
For Michigan fans looking to learn more about Nussmeier, what do you think his best game at Alabama was, and what do you think his worst game was?
Worst has to be 2012 Texas A&M (thanks for the memories). His refusal to RUN THE DANG BALL late in the game, especially on 1st and goal from the six, cost us the game. Nuss has a tendency to get cute in the redzone and that certainly showed on 'Bama's final drive.
His best would be the BCS Championship Game against Notre Dame. He put a fabulous game plan together and the Notre Dame defense never came close to stopping us. A close second would be A&M this year. I think we punted once the entire game and that was on our first drive.