With the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship set for Monday night, there is one quality that No. 2 Oregon and No. 4 Ohio State have shared all season: explosive offenses.
The Ducks rank second nationally, averaging 47.2 points per game, while the Buckeyes pace just behind their opponent at fifth in the country at 45.0 points per game. The last time the Florida Gators won a national title, they averaged 43.6 points per game, a figure Florida has not come close to hitting in the six seasons since.
The fourth offensive coordinator tasked with turning around the Gators’ offense since 2011, Doug Nussmeier will not be at this alone as head coach Jim McElwain was hired due in large part to his offensive success. McElwain pegged Nussmeier as his offensive coordinator from the beginning, though it did take awhile to make the deal official.
“Nuss and I can sit and talk the same language, and it’s not going to take a five-hour conversation. It’s going to take a two or three minutes, ‘Oh yeah, you know what I’m getting at’ and boom, there you go,” explained McElwain. “He is a guy that’s been successful and has a great background and is great with people and has developed quarterbacks. I think that’s an important thing to understand there is the development of the position.”
Nussmier served as a quarterbacks coach at Michigan State under John L. Smith at the same time McElwain was the associate head coach, wide receivers coach and special teams coordinator. He also succeeded McElwain twice, first as offensive coordinator at Fresno State in 2008 and then again in the same position at Alabama in 2012.
But McElwain is not just looking at those experiences as reasons why Nussmeier was the right fit to help turn Florida’s offense back into a championship-caliber unit.
“Obviously here’s a guy that has NFL playing experience. [He] was the [Walter] Payton Award winner in a spread offense that threw it all over the field as a player at the University of Idaho back when the one-back stuff – whatever that is – kind of came into vogue. And then his experience of coaching in the NFL, his experience of playing for some guys and coaching with some guys that have had a lot of success in different ways,” he said.
Nussmeier spent five years playing in the NFL and two years as quarterbacks coach of the St. Louis Rams before returning to college. Among the signal callers he’s tutored in his career are A.J. McCarron (Alabama), Jake Locker and Keith Price (Washington), Drew Stanton and Jeff Smoker (Michigan State), and Marc Bulger (Rams).
He is of the belief that one can never have too many capable quarterbacks on the roster, which is why Nussmeier plans to ensure the Gators recruit one in every recruiting class. Florida does not currently have a signal caller pledged for 2015, though it is returning freshmen Will Grier and Treon Harris, the latter starting the final six games of the season for the Gators (4-2).
Nussmeier believes it will be a “great competition” between the two for the starting job with neither entering spring practice with a leg up on the other.
While quarterback issues have plagued Florida since the departure of Tim Tebow, the Gators offense has truly struggled as an entire unit. Nussmeier stayed with the company line of saying that UF will “do what our personnel allows us to do,” noting that Florida will “fit our system to what our people can do” and not “get stuck in a box” by trying to fit square pegs in round holes.
If the Gators do not have pass-catching tight ends, the quarterbacks will not throw the ball to them. Should Florida’s running backs prove to be the most electric playmakers, expect more wheel routes and passes out of the backfield.
Nussmeier has one goal, which is truly the goal of every offense in the country but one UF has not been able to meet since Dan Mullen departed after the 2008 season.
“[We want] to score points,” he said.