January 11, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Angelique S. Chengelis

Devin Gardner will be test case for new Michigan assistant Doug Nussmeier

Devin Gardner, left, was inconsistent and accident-prone last season. The Wolverines are hoping new offfensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, right, will sharpen his skills. (Steve Perez / Detroit News)

Ann Arbor — Michigan has its new offensive coordinator in Doug Nussmeier, and his reputation as a developer of quarterbacks will soon get its first test here.

Devin Gardner, Michigan’s starter last season and for five games in 2012, attended Nussmeier’s introductory news conference on Friday, and while he chose not to take questions from a reporter afterwards, Gardner was there to get a feel for his new coach.

Nussmeier, like his predecessor, Al Borges, also will coach quarterbacks at Michigan. He inherits a group that includes Gardner, who is recovering from a left foot injury suffered late in the Ohio State game and that held him out of the bowl game.

Gardner appeared at the news conference with a boot still on his left foot and was using crutches. Spring practice begins the final week of February, and it’s unclear what his availability might be.

Shane Morris, the freshman left-hander — Nussmeier was a lefty quarterback — started the bowl game and played admirably, and backup Russell Bellomy also returns. Wilton Speight is an early enrollee who will participate in spring practice. Nussmeier is familiar with Speight from recruiting.

Solid references

Nussmeier didn’t plunge deep into X’s and O’s during his first news conference, and he admitted he’s not entirely familiar with the roster, but he knows how to coach quarterbacks. Former Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton, coached part of his college career by Nussmeier while on the Spartans’ staff, raved this week about Michigan’s hire. Stanton, now with the Arizona Cardinals, said he wouldn’t have reached this point in his career without him.

Now, it’s not about whether Nussmeier can develop NFL talent.

But can he develop Michigan’s quarterbacks and return the program to what he called, as he rattled off the names of some of the former U-M standouts, “Quarterback U”?

Certainly, he has an approach that’s worked and been tested at several stops, including, most recently, Alabama, where he coached A.J. McCarron.

“The biggest thing from a quarterback standpoint is trying to simulate a game-type environment for them (in practices) Sunday through Friday, because when you get out on the field Saturday, things happen fast,” Nussmeier said. “If you’re not prepared you can get exposed very quickly.

“You never want to put a quarterback on the field who is not prepared. The biggest thing is the amount of time we spend in the meeting room. It’s real important at that position the players possess a quality of being self-determined. They have to be self-starters, they have to be driven. We’ll prepare our quarterback to play and play successfully.”


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