Doug Nussmeier instructs former Washington quarterback Jake Locker, right, now with the Tennessee Titans, in 2010. Nussmeier was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Washington from 2009-11. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
John L. Smith was an assistant at Washington State when he spotted the big left-hander while watching film of high school football recruits.
A year later, when Smith became head coach at Idaho, he dropped in at Lakeridge High near Portland, Ore., to get a look at Doug Nussmeier, a 6-foot-3 backup quarterback who also played safety.
Nussmeier, 43, is Michigan’s new offensive coordinator and spent the last two seasons at Alabama as offensive coordinator / quarterbacks coach. He was officially announced Thursday and replaces Al Borges, who was fired Wednesday after three seasons.
“He’s the first guy I went after in recruiting,” Smith, the former Michigan State coach now at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, told The Detroit News on Thursday. “I went to watch him play basketball, too, and he controlled the whole game, telling people where to go on the court. This guy can compete.”
While at Idaho, where he was a four-year starter at quarterback, Nussmeier in 1993 won the Walter Payton Award given to the Division I-AA player of the year. That season he threw for 2,960 yards and a school-record 33 touchdowns. He had 10,824 yards passing during his career.
“I think (Michigan is) getting a good guy, but without a doubt you know I’m biased,” said Smith, who has spoken to Nussmeier since he accepted the job at Michigan. “I think he’s special. I think the University of Michigan is getting a great guy a, great coach, and a family man.
“I think that’s a great hire. You have to pat (Michigan coach) Brady (Hoke) on the back for going out and getting the guy. Getting him away from Alabama is not an easy task. I know Doug is excited about it. Sometimes in coaching your battery will run down, and every time you make a move like that, it’s a recharger. He’s excited about where he is and the new challenges and the new kids he will be working with.”
Smith joked that after Nussmeier made a run at professional football and decided to go into coaching, he tried to talk him out of it.
“I knew he would be good at whatever he does, because he competes so darn hard,” Smith said.
When Smith was at Michigan State, he hired Nussmeier to coach quarterbacks. Nussmeier was with the Spartans from 2003-05 and worked with Drew Stanton, now with the Arizona Cardinals, and Jeff Smoker.
“Doug Nussmeier is everything as advertised and more,” Stanton said Wednesday night after news broke that Michigan hired Nussmeier. “He has an unbelievable approach to the game that demands a lot out of his players but also has a way of making every day fun.
“He represents what college football should be all about. He’s going to make a great head coach some day, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. I was literally in tears when he left my junior year at Michigan State.”
Smith said one of Nussmeier’s strengths is how communicates with the players.
“He knows how to relate to the kids, how to take a personal interest in them,” Smith said. “He’s special and really good, but I am biased.”
There’s no doubt in Smith’s mind that Nussmeier will develop, in time, into a head coach.
Until then, Smith said he will enjoy watching Nussmeier continue the climb up the coaching ranks.
“Being an ex-Spartan,” Smith said, laughing, “now I have to cheer for the Wolverines.”