Say hello to Eric Rutter, Maize N Brew's latest addition to the football recruiting section. Formerly at The M Block, Eric will now be writing everything from prospect interviews to camp summaries and beyond, all right here. A more formal welcome is forthcoming. -- Anthony
In one of the quickest coaching searches in recent memory, Michigan nabbed a member from the Alabama Crimson Tide staff, Doug Nussmeier, to fill the void left from the firing of offensive coordinator Al Borges. Michigan's offense left much to be desired in 2013, and a large portion of the blame was directed at Borges. With Nussmeier in charge, Michigan looks to continue installing a pro-style offense that builds on many of the concepts which Borges favored. The physical brand of football that Michigan covets is expected to return to Ann Arbor with the offense in Nussmeier's hands
As with any coaching change, this move is expected to impact the future of Michigan's recruiting in a number of ways. First, coach Borges took a very unique approach in selecting his quarterbacks. The Wolverines have employed a very delicate strategy in extending offers at the quarterback position and Borges was in complete control of this area. Only two quarterback offers have gone out in the 2015 class whereas many schools have offered a half dozen signal-callers by this point. The only two QBs to hold a Michigan offer at this point are five-star Josh Rosen (St. John Bosco/CA) and three-star David Sills (Eastern Christian Academy/MD).
Before Borges was let go, six junior quarterbacks in the class of 2015 stood out as top targets for the Michigan staff. The recruitment of three such prospects was handled by Borges specifically, as the former Michigan OC would typically partake in Thursday night phone calls with this trio of prospects. I reached out to Alex Malzone (Brother Rice/MI), Riley Neal (Yorktown/IN) and Kyle Kearns (Foothill/CA) to see how they took the news of this move.
"I was pretty surprised," said Malzone. "But based on the year they had, some change was expected."
The 6'3", 200 lb. Brother Rice pocket-passer also theorized that this move was made to patch up some of the deficiencies that Michigan experienced an offense in 2013. Malzone is intrigued by this change and his interest in Michigan will see a spike as a result.
"Oh yeah, it definitely will," said Malzone. "With the success he's had at Alabama, definitely."
Over the past six months, Al Borges also took a special liking to a prospect hailing from Yorktown, Indiana. Riley Neal first jumped on Michigan's radar after attending the Wolverines' four-day technique camp in the middle of June. During that camp, Borges spent much of his time watching Neal and the two kept in contact afterwards. Neal visited again during the summer and made the trip back up to Michigan to take in the Notre Dame game on September 7. It was during these visits that Neal furthered his bond with Borges, which makes his departure all the more unexpected.
"I'm just surprised overall," said Neal. "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."
After it was announced that Nussmeier would be the next offensive coordinator at Michigan, Neal expressed his approval of the hire. The balanced offense that Alabama runs particularly caught his eye, as Nussmeier ran a pro-style system for the Crimson Tide as well.
One prospect that I believe will benefit the most from this move is Foothill QB Kyle Kearns. The highly-regarded California passer has also been in contact with Michigan for the entirety of his junior season and had hoped to make it to Ann Arbor for a visit, although he was never able to arrange such a trip. Kearns also had developed a strong relationship with Borges, going as far as saying he was "shocked" by the move.
During our conversation in the aftermath of Borges' firing, Kearns mentioned that he would be monitoring the situation closely and was hoping for a pro-style coach to assume the newly-vacant position on the Michigan staff. Kearns got his wish, and it turned out to be a coach that he already has developed a great rapport with.
"I'm really good friends with coach Nuss," said Kearns. " He's a great guy. He's all pro-style. I look forward to talking to him soon."
As for the other quarterbacks who were receiving a considerable amount of Michigan attention, they were all taken aback by Wednesday night's news. El Dorado QB Zach Gentry, who has been receiving mail from the Wolverines on a daily basis, was quite surprised and felt rather out of the loop.
"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. Regardless of the staff, Michigan is still a great program with so many great upsides and tradition."
After Nussmeier was announced as the new OC at Michigan, Gentry spoke about what this could mean for Michigan in the coming years. He used Nussmeier's experience at Alabama as the template to base his expectations off of and has an idea of what he would like to see.
"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."
While some quarterbacks have experienced a good deal of contact from coach Borges, that is not the case with every Michigan target. A great example of this is Gonzaga QB Nick Johns. As opposed to communication with Borges, the bulk of Johns' contact with the staff has come through defensive back coach Curt Mallory. The two speak almost every day through social media and have built a strong connection that way. As a result, Borges' firing didn't have a huge impact on Johns, who remained positive about the move.
"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. They have a great running and throwing quarterback now, so they should hire someone that molds his skill set. I think mine is similar."
Once Nussmeier was deemed as 'the guy', Johns was unsure of how to feel. He hadn't developed any kind of relationship with Nussmeier while he was at Alabama, so Nick is going to reserve judgment until he speaks with the new Michigan OC.
The final member of this six-man group that had been receiving considerable attention from Michigan is Centennial QB Jimmy Fitzgerald. Much like Johns, most of Fitzgerald's contact with Michigan has come through Curt Mallory. This has allowed for him to remain positive about Michigan even with a temporarily turbulent offensive coordinator situation. Fitzgerald spoke on how this would effect his feelings of Michigan- if at all.
"Not so much," said Fitzgerald. "It's still a great school with great academics and athletics. Nussmeier obviously has a great background, so it's a great combination."
Fitzgerald has five offers to his name and would love to add Michigan to that list. Regardless of who Michigan brought in at offensive coordinator, the Wolverines would be in it for Fitzgerald.
While it is clear to see why this move would have a direct effect regarding Michigan's recruitment of the quarterback position, it will also have ripples across the future of the offense as a whole. To give a better representation of the waves that this move made, I reached out to several offensive targets that were all informed on the recent happenings in Ann Arbor.
Hailing from the talent-laden city of Woodbridge, Virginia, four-star offensive tackle Matthew Burrell sees Michigan as a school on the up-swing and this move only further validates that sentiment. The track record of a new coach typically gives an indication on what to expect moving forward. If this is the case in Ann Arbor, then Burrell would be very happy by this move.
"Great pick up for them," said Burrell. "Nussmeier was very productive at Alabama, so I can definitely see him adding to that great Michigan tradition."
After a very positive visit to Michigan for Under the Lights II, Burrell has remained enthralled by the Wolverines. The exciting theatrics of that weekend's visit when combined with the on-field performance was very attractive to Burrell, and the school's academic presentation was also very impressive by his estimation. With nearly every major BCS school vying for his services, competition for Burrell is stiff. However, this move may help bump Michigan into more favorable position. An offer would put Michigan even higher on his list.
"I have always been interested, ever since my last visit," said Burrell. I just haven't received that offer yet."
While Burrell was in contact with the Alabama staff that Nussmeier recently left, he was mainly in touch with their offensive line coach Mario Cristobal and outside linebacker coach Lance Thompson. Still, this change is seen as a power move by the highly-coveted lineman and may help generate further interest down the line.
Since Michigan relied heavily on the use of tight ends in the passing game this year, the Wolverines are looking to continue to bring in physical athletes for future classes. At 6'3" and 232 lbs., junior Reagan Williams has the combination of size and physicality that Michigan covets- emphasis on physicality. Williams would provide a big target for Michigan quarterbacks in the red zone and coach Nussmeier looks to continue to utilize the tight end position moving forward. Even though the hiring of Nussmeier looks to be a good move in Williams' eyes, it is a change that doesn't necessarily alter his level of interest in the Wolverines
"I think it was a great move for them in the right direction," said Williams. "Coach Nussmeier definitely has an impressive background coming from the likes of Alabama. It's definitely a step in the right direction and a sure chance to revitalize their offense. I would say that my interest level would still remain the same- still at a high level. Reason being is that I didn't have much contact with the previous offensive coordinator, but I'm definitely interested in learning more about coach Naussmeier."
Even though the bulk of the reaction to this move remains positive, the departure of Al Borges is a move that effects many people. Borges had worked very hard to establish bonds with the future members of Michigan's offense, and this staffing decisions means that the Wolverines' current offensive commits will have to rebuild their relationship with a new OC.
Jon Runyan Jr., the second member of Michigan's 2015 class, attended Michigan's technique camp in mid-June and began to forge his relationship with Borges while in Ann Arbor over the summer. As the son of former UM-legend Jon Runyan, the younger Runyan has a high set of expectation to live up to wherever he goes. Jon handled this in stride and performed well enough to earn a Michigan offer on the heels of their camp. While there is plenty of reason to be excited about the new hire, Runyan took time to reflect on the departure of a coach that he had grown close to.
"It was upsetting considering he was the one who was talking to me a lot at the camp and really liked me," said Runyan. "But coach Hoke let him go in the best interest of the program. Coach Nussmeier obviously won a national championship at Alabama and they've had a pretty good program down there for a while. Michigan hasn't been what it was so I think that this will help get them going in the right direction."
Joining Runyan in the camp of people sad to see Borges go is 2016 quarterback prospect Messiah deWeaver. Coming out of Trotwood-Madison (OH), deWeaver comes from a long line of players that have donned the maize and blue in college, including Roy Roundtree, Mike McCray and Reon Dawson. As an early favorite at QB in 2016, deWeaver had built a strong relationship with Borges and was reminisced to see him leave.
"I was sad to see a great coach leave, but it's a business and you have to understand that," said DeWeaver. "We did have a good relationship, but I have a good relationship with other Michigan coaches as well like coach Hoke, Singletary and Smith."
Partly because of his connection to other coaches in the program, deWeaver remains highly interested in the Wolverines. He also sees similarities between the offense Nussmeier ran at Alabama and what he would like to see out of Michigan in the future.
With the change in offensive coordinators coming, this could also mean a change in the players that Michigan will recruit going forward. Nussmeier implemented a zone-blocking scheme in Alabama that put emphasis on moving in space, hand placement and quick, choppy footwork. This may alter the way Michigan recruits offensive lineman for the future, so I reached out to one prospect who may receive more attention going forward.
Drew Richmond is a junior offensive tackle out of Memphis University School that could fit that template. As a consensus four-star talent that grades out as tops in the state of Tennessee, Richmond has an extensive offer list from nearly every major program, including Alabama. Keeping this interest in mind, Richmond is unsure is it will have any effect on his recruitment going forward.
"Honestly, I don't think Michigan is interested in me," said Richmond. "I have an offer from Alabama and I have almost every major offer now. But for whatever reason, I guess I don't fit the Michigan mold."
If Michigan does ramp up Richmond's recruitment, the 6'5", 300 lb. offensive tackle would be listening, adding that "of course" Michigan is a school that is of interest to him.
One player that Michigan fans do not have to worry about wavering from their commitment is De La Salle linebacker Jared Wangler. The Michigan legacy recruit, and brother of current walk-on wide receiver Jack Wangler, is 100% blue after switching his commitment from Penn State over the summer. Wangler was relatively surprised to hear the news of Borges' firing, but he remains confident in the leadership that is currently in place.
"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."
Sophomore offensive tackle Erik Swenson is the latest prospect to commit to Michigan, and although he has only been in the fold for a short period of time, he was aware that a change may be imminent. He, much like Wangler, is firm in his commitment to the Wolverines.
"I knew it was coming, but I was kind of surprised that it was this early honestly," said Swenson. "But I think it was a change Michigan needed. Then they got a new coach so fast. I think it was a great move!"
Adding coach Nussmeier to the Michigan staff just weeks before National Signing Day is a gutsy decision, but it is one that may reap more benefits attached than the previous regime. Recently offered 2014 running back Jeff Jones, who is currently committed to Minnesota, did not have a chance to build a relationship with Borges and is likely unaffected by this move. Nussmeier has a history of developing successful running backs and has produced six 1,000-yard rushers in the past six seasons. This fact will surely not be lost on Jones, who is slated to take an official visit to Michigan on January 31.
A move with as many implication as this is likely to make waves for days, and further reaction is expected to pour in over the weekend. Doug Nussmeier is a coach that can provide hope for an at-times hopeless Michigan offense in 2013, and this facet is not lost on recruits in the least.