Ann Arbor — This is Michigan, as Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon often says, but even he was a bit surprised when Doug Nussmeier’s name came up.
Nussmeier spent the last two seasons as offensive coordinator at Alabama and helped the Tide win a national championship in 2012.
He is now Michigan’s offensive coordinator, replacing Al Borges, fired after three seasons.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke initiated discussions with Nussmeier, 43, and then discussed with Brandon the opportunity to hire him from Alabama, the perennial national power.
“My first reaction was, ‘Wow, that would be great, but really?’ ” Brandon said. “The more I got involved in discussions with Brady, the more real this became.”
Why the shock?
“This is a finalist for the head coaching job at the University of Washington, this is a guy who has a national championship ring from Alabama and they didn’t have too bad of a year this year, and (Alabama quarterback) AJ McCarron didn’t do too bad during his time.”
Nussmeier was asked during Friday's news conference why he left Alabama.
“Obviously, I can’t say enough about (Alabama) coach (Nick) Saban — it was a great opportunity,” Nussmeier said. “The opportunity to be here, to integrate into a staff and take this program to where we all want to go … with all the great quarterbacks who played here, it’s Quarterback U, and to be a part of that room here and help those guys develop and grow, I’m really excited about that opportunity.”
He was asked if he will have more freedom running Michigan’s offense.
“(Hoke) and I talked about his philosophy,” Nussmeier said. “Obviously, I wouldn’t be here today if I wasn’t all-in with what coach Hoke and I discussed, what he wanted to do on offense, who he wanted to be and how he wanted to move forward. We both agreed on the identity we want. We’ll adapt with our personnel.”
Former Michigan State coach John L. Smith recruited and coached Nussmeier at Idaho. He later hired him to his MSU staff as quarterbacks coach. Smith on Thursday made an interesting observation about Nussmeier.
“Getting him away from Alabama is not an easy task in itself,” Smith said. “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.”
What of the future?
Nussmeier was a finalist for the Washington head coaching job for which he interviewed last month, and he has not hidden the fact he wants to eventually be a head coach.
“I’ve said it before, I’d love to be a head coach in the right situation,” Nussmeier said. “As that relates to being there today, I’m excited about the opportunity to learn from Brady Hoke, who in my opinion is one of the best football coaches in all of college football.”
Familiar with Michigan
While coaching at Michigan State, Nussmeier got a feel for the rivalry with Michigan.
He was on the staff when the Spartans lost a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter of the 2004 game at Michigan Stadium. Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards caught two touchdown passes to help erase that lead and Michigan went on to win, 45-37 in triple overtime.
“I watched a lot of touchdown passes in this corner, Braylon Edwards the one year we thought we were going to get it done,” Nussmeier said, laughing.
He said he always has respected the Michigan program.
“I said it before, when you say Michigan, it’s synonymous with football,” Nussmeier said. “It is a special place — there aren’t many of them.”
Nussmeier said he has a great deal of respect for Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison and discussed the challenge of preparing for Michigan in the 2012 season opener at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. No. 2 Alabama won 41-14.
“I thought it was a very, very good football team we were getting ready to play,” he said. “There were a lot of sleepless nights thinking about coach Mattison and his blitzes and all the things we might see.”
Gardner in attendance
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner attended the Nussmeier news conference along with tight end/receiver Devin Funchess.
Gardner’s left foot is still in a protective boot and he was using crutches. Gardner missed the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl game because of the injury. He smiled while declining a request to ask him about how he is recovering from the injury he suffered late in the Ohio State game on Nov. 30.