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Getting To Know Doug Nussmeier with UW Dawg Pound

With Michigan bringing in Doug Nussmeier to run the offense, the best way to get insight into what kind of a coordinator he could be for Michigan is to find out how he did at prior stops. A couple of the guys from SBN's UW Dawg Pound were kind enough to talk a little about just what the Huskies got out of Nussmeier's three years as OC.

Nussmeier spent two years working with Keith Price at UW.
Nussmeier spent two years working with Keith Price at UW.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Doug Nussmeier joined UW's staff when Steve Sarkisian took over for Ty Willingham in 2009. How would you characterize the offensive improvement made over the next three years, and how much of that do you think can reasonably be attributed to Nussmeier?

Anthony It's hard to gauge the offensive improvement over the first couple of years Nussmeier was at Washington, simply because the depth and talent they were working with was mostly either young or nonexistent. But in his third and final year, they finally got a group that was well rounded enough to be consistently effective, and the results were fantastic. That offense was the most efficient product that UW has fielded in a long time.

Kirk - It's always difficult to parse out credit (and blame) within coaching staffs. Offense has always been Sark's baby, and remained so when he became Head Coach. In fact, with Sark calling plays on gamedays and the perception that Sark was the true OC at Washington was thought to be one of the reasons Nussmeier took the Alabama job - to get a chance to more clearly establish himself without the shadow of Sark over him. All that said, there was really nowhere to go but up for the UW offense post Willingham. One notable thing they did is bring a more traditional pro-style approach to the offense and worked hard to develop Jake Locker's passing skills. They kept some of the shotgun looks, QB draws and read-option plays that the prior staff had run to play off of Locker's strengths, but they also brought more I-formation looks and play-action into the playbook. While Sark is given a lot of credit as a QB guru, I think Nussmeier also deserves a lot of credit here, both in helping mold the raw talent of Locker into a 1st round NFL pick as well as being the guy that Keith Price really bonded with. When Nussmeier left, Price's performance dropped noticeably, and while Price said all the right things about having Marques Tuiasosopo as his QB coach this year, he was still calling Nussmeier on a regular basis for advice and help, and had a huge bounce-back year.

What style offense did Nussmeier run during his time in Washington? Was the offense balanced or did it skew more toward pass or run?

A - Nussmeier and Sarkisian's offense was always very balanced. For whatever reason they had the reputation as being pass heavy guys, but they were generally close to 50/50 pass/run.

K - Sark brought his USC offense with him - a lot of I-formation along with some 11 and 10 personnel groups, the QB under center much of the time. But he also adapted to the skills of his QB (and perhaps also just adapting to emerging offensive trends) and incorporated more shotgun looks with some read-option. The offense was fairly balanced in terms of run/pass calls (though that didn't stop some old-school fans from complaining he was too "pass-happy"). And the offense was always evolving. When Locker graduated, the playbook went to more packaged plays and fewer read-option plays with Price at QB, and more shotgun looks.

Michigan's previous coordinator, Al Borges, was responsible for coaching quarterbacks, and it seems as though Nussmeier will take on that added role as well. What did you think of his ability to coach QBs at UW? Was there a noticeable improvement in the play or Jake Locker or Keith Price under Nussmeier's tutelage?

A - Doug Nussmeier was given a ton of credit for what Keith Price became. Price was a guy that they brought in in the initial recruiting class after Ty Willingham was fired, and quite frankly was mostly considered a depth guy. People expected Nick Montana to step in after Jake Locker and be the guy for the next three or four years, but all Price did was win the job and then go on to rewrite UW's passing records book. And though there were other factors at play, Nussmeier leaving for Alabama surely had something to do with Price having his worst season immediately thereafter.

K - Again, hard to know just how much credit to give Nussmeier specifically given Sark's rep and his tendency to spend a lot of his time on the field with the QB's, but given what happened with Price after Nuss left, I'd be inclined to think he deserves a lot of credit for his QB coaching. Locker was a tremendously talented guy from a physical standpoint, but very much a raw product when Sark & Nuss arrived. He had played in a run-heavy Wing-T offense in H.S. and had a ton to learn in the passing game. Once Sark & Nuss arrived, Locker got a crash-course in passing game concepts, and his footwork and accuracy improved quite a bit. He was still a work in progress by the time he was drafted, but he went from a guy that the NFL might have taken a late-round flier on as an athlete that could maybe play S, LB or RB to a top-10 draft pick at QB. Keith Price had his mechanics improved significantly, and a skinny, not very tall kid with an average arm turned into one of the most productive QB's in Husky history.

Michigan's biggest problems have come in the lack of a consistent pro-style run game over the past three years. What kinds of improvements was Nussmeier able to make there in his time at UW?

A - Nussmeier walked into a pretty good situation when he arrived at UW, with being handed Chris Polk to work with. And he made the best of it, as Polk now sits near the top of most of UW's rushing records.
If you're expecting a specifically "pro style" rushing attack, that may not be what you get. Nuss seemed to be much more apt to fit a style around the talents of the guys he had, rather than force guys into a specific system. Early on they did more zone read stuff when Jake Locker was at QB. When Price took over, he was a much better decision maker than Locker, so they moved to more packaged plays. The pro style stuff was always there, but mixed in with other looks.

K - Nussmeier inherited a terrific talent at RB in Chris Polk. He had been rushed into duty the year before Nuss arrived, got hurt and was able to get the season back as a medical redshirt. Under the new staff (and a lot of credit should probably go to his RB coach Joel Thomas), the timid, tentative kid the year before suddenly blossomed into one of the most physical and productive RB's the UW has ever seen. This was a perfect fit for the offense - they loved to use the run game and build off of success there to utilize play-action in the passing game. Polk had terrific success under this staff.

A big worry among the Michigan fanbase has been that the offensive staff has failed to develop young talent - especially on the offensive line and at running back. During his three years at UW did Nussmeier do a good job helping to develop and utilize young players on offense?

A - On the offensive line, it's hard to say if Nussmeier did a good job there or not, since he wasn't really at UW long enough to see through the rebuild of the depth to completion. However, he was part of moving Senio Kelemete to LT (Willingham had him on defense), where he became a starter, a second team All Pac-12 selection, and an NFL draft pick.

At other positions, they were definitely able to recruit and develop some pretty good players. Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Kasen Williams were big time recruits who came in and produced right away under Nussmeier (ASJ was a Freshman All American). As mentioned, Keith Price was someone they did a great job developing. Jermaine Kearse was a guy who got better every year at UW, and now is making an impact on Sundays. Colin Tanigawa was an lightly recruited prospect on the offensive line who started as a redshirt freshman and became a really good player.

K -  I'd hesitate to put too much credit or blame at Nussmeier's feet beyond his position group (QB's). That said, as noted above Polk blossomed fantastically under this staff; young WR's like Jermaine Kearse and Devin Aguilar were thrust into action and did well; the staff switched Senio Kelemete from DT to OL and he was a 3-year starter before being drafted.