Florida’s Nussmeier keeping offensive options open
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Doug Nussmeier has no real plan for Florida’s offense.
And that might be a good thing.
Nussmeier and new coach Jim McElwain are waiting until after they evaluate the roster to decide what kind of offense best fits the Gators.
While it might seem like an obvious path to take, especially because neither has much familiarity with Florida, it comes across as a ground-breaking direction for a program that has been stuck in offensive mediocrity. The Gators have been near the bottom of the Southeastern Conference — and the nation, really — in total offense in each of the last five seasons.
The offensive ineptitude spans two head coaches, four coordinators and six starting quarterbacks.
It’s up to Nussmeier and McElwain to end the downward trend.
"We’re going to do what our personnel allows us to do and fit our system to what our people can do," Nussmeier said Friday, adding that he expects to call plays. "We’re not going to get stuck in a box. The way college football is today with recruiting, when you can recruit players that can make a difference, and the different things that you need to do to put people in position to be successful, that’s what we’re going to do."
It sounds simple, really.
And it might be. But Florida has made offense look so difficult since Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow left school following the 2009 season.
The Gators ranked 82nd in total offense in 2010, which was coach Urban Meyer’s final year in Gainesville. Things really hit rock bottom under former coach Will Muschamp, who insisted on running a pro-style system the day he was hired. Florida fell to 105th (2011), 103rd (2012), 113th (2013) and 93rd (2014) in total offense during Muschamp’s tenure.
Three coordinators — Charlie Weis, Brent Pease and Kurt Roper — tried and failed.
And six quarterbacks — John Brantley, Jacoby Brissett, Jeff Driskel, Tyler Murphy, Skyler Mornhinweg and Treon Harris — took turns floundering behind center.
Nussmeier didn’t pay close attention to what was happening in Gainesville. He was busy coaching at Washington (2009-11), Alabama (2012-13) and Michigan (2014) while Florida struggled.
But it doesn’t take an astute observer to realize the Gators have done more wrong than right on that side of the ball for half a decade.
Florida is counting on Nussmeier (with input from McElwain, of course) to fix its biggest problem.
"Nuss and I can sit and talk the same language and it’s not going to take a five-hour conversation," McElwain said. "It’s going to take a two- or three-minute, `Oh, yeah, you know what I’m getting at?’ And boom. There you go. He was a guy who’s been successful. He has a great background and is great with people and has developed quarterbacks."
Nussmeier and McElwain worked together at Michigan State (2003-05) under coach John L. Smith, with Nussmeier serving as quarterbacks coach and McElwain as assistant head coach/receiver coach.
Nussmeier later followed McElwain as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Fresno State in 2007 and at Alabama in 2012.
Now, they’re together again.
And trying to make Florida relevant again. Asked about his vision for the offense, Nussmeier said "to score points." That part of the plan won’t change even after evaluating the roster.
"Honestly, I wish I could go further into that one, but we’re not at that point yet," Nussmeier said. "I’d be giving you false information. I could tell you we’d be doing this, this and this. But we’re not there yet. The biggest thing is to get to know our team, to know our roster, to know our players.
"And then as we go through the next couple of months, evaluate that. What can we do well? What fits our players? And adjust to them."