Nuss' impact on the OLine and RBs?

Submitted by UMfan21 on January 9th, 2014 at 12:46 PM

The general consensus with Nuss is that he's developed a lot of good QBs and his philosophy is pro-style offense with an emphasis on short passing.  Obviously this will open up the run game by forcing LBs to react to the possiblity of pass coverage, rather than be on speedballs screaming through the A gaps.

Aside from this, what other impact can he have on the run game?  Obviously a change in OL coach would be the most direct way to change the OL performance/scheme, but let's assume Funk and Fred Jackson stay.  It seemed like the OL last year made many mistakes and I'm unsure how many of those are really attributed to the scheme versus inexperience and poor positional coaching (same for RBs who I felt were often times hesitant, missed cutback lanes, etc). 

Is Nuss going to fix the run game through the passing game, through improved blocking schemes, or will the impact be minimal (ie is Funk really the key)?  How much direct impact can a "QB centric" OC have on the run game with the rest of the offensive staff in tact?


PS-I'm not advocating firing Funk or Jackson.  Just considering the coaches we have today, what kind of improvement can we expect.  Curious what others thought.



January 9th, 2014 at 1:00 PM ^

Jackson is a great recruiter (Green and Harris specifically come to mind as they were both 5* guys) and very respected at Michigan. Yes, our RBs seemed to underperform, but Green improved over the season.

Funk had schemes switched up on him during the season and had multiple starters on the inside (I also believe that Lewan and Schofield are overrated by our fanbase). More telling is that Kugler's dad (NFL O-Line coach) sent his son to Michigan and therefore approves of Funk (and we have recruited well on the line).

As long as Nuss likes these guys and can work well with them, I say they stay.


January 9th, 2014 at 1:10 PM ^

but I see his presence as preventing the return of Wheatly or Hart.  We haven't had a truly great running back since Hart and he dominated from the time he arrived on campus.

As for Funk, I like your argument.  I'm 50-50 on him, but we sure need to see some improvement across the line by September.


January 9th, 2014 at 1:16 PM ^

Fred Jackson has coached multiple all-time leading rushers (Anthony Thomas, Mike Hart) and first round picks (Tyrone Wheatley, Tshimanga Biakabutuka, Chris Perry). Just because the running game has fallen off the last few years (when, oh by the way, the offensive line was terrible) doesn't mean Jackson's presence is preventing greatness. Personally, I don't think Wheatley or Hart has done anything spectacular enough as a coach to warrant booting out Jackson. I think you're just someone who wants change just for the hell of it.


January 9th, 2014 at 1:28 PM ^

Has had great rushers. Just none in the past several years.  He's surely had great talent to work with, but he deserves credit for that as a recruiter.  I have no inside knowledge of FJ's teachings.  Maybe he's great.  I will say that he has been OC and assistant HC and he did not do well in these expanded roles. 

I am the last guy who wants change for the sake of change (although by the time J. Groban came to visit I was ready to see RR go away).  I do, however, tend to think Fred's time has come. 


January 9th, 2014 at 3:27 PM ^

I don't know that he was a terrible offensive coordinator. I think there was a little bit of a talent lull in the mid-1990's when you had quarterbacks like Dreisbach and Griese, running backs like Clarence Williams and Chris Howard, etc. There were some good pieces (Biakabutuka, Jansen, etc.), but the skills guys in those years weren't as good as the early 1990's (Grbac, Howard, Wheatley) or the late 1990's (Brady, Henson, Thomas, Terrell, etc.).


January 9th, 2014 at 1:30 PM ^

Jackson should decide when he wants to go, not be pushed out- so I totally agree with you. When Jackson does retire, then we can talk about RB coaches... which by then Hart may be an easy sell. until then, Let Nussmeier come in an evaluate whom he wants to keep and let go, I could easily see Funk staying with this change in OC. That's more than enough change, I think, anyway.


January 9th, 2014 at 1:36 PM ^

1) nobody on your list of RBs has had any NFL sucess (aside from Wheatley and maybe Perry?) and 15-16 year old kids probably don't even know who these guys are. I think a guy like Wheatley or any NFL RB coach, who played in the NFL is better suited for the job.

2) Also, while you correctly state that our recent RB problems are due to a bad OL, the reverse is also true. When Thomas, Hart, Biakabutuka were setting records, our OL was amazing and a lot of the credit goes to them as well (maybe more, since we have had very successful NFL OL players).

Also, I don't necessairly think FJ should go (as I said, Green did get better and he's recruiting solid level RBs), but he's not untouchable and shouldn't be for Nuss.


January 9th, 2014 at 1:51 PM ^

was an excellent NFL back before he destroyed his leg. Best YPC of any Michigan player with more than 200 NFL carries (except for Harbaugh, of course); had one year as a starter where he averaged over 5.

It's probably not a coincidence that he had the fewest carries in college of any of these guys. Heavy usage in college doesn't seem to translate into pro success--it's almost as if you're born with a certain number of useful carries in your body and if you use too many of them in college, well...

Of course there are some freaks like O.J. where that number is very large.


January 9th, 2014 at 2:35 PM ^

1.8% fumbles per touch.

That's  the best rate of any of the Michigan backs that got real time in the NFL except for Thomas, and Fargas if you count him. (Wheatley's was the same as Biakabutuka.)



January 9th, 2014 at 2:36 PM ^

That's not a good indicator, in my opinion. I do not expect freshman running backs to be good blockers. And I think Toussaint was a victim of poor schemes at times. A 5'10", 200 lb. running back isn't much of a match for a blitzing 225 lb. linebacker or a 250 lb. defensive end. Vincent Smith, on the other hand, was great at it, sacrificed his body, and got a concussion or two while blocking guys.

So. We've had good blockers in the past, including up through the 2012 season. Then we had poor blockers in 2013, partly because of youth. Do I think Fred Jackson should be fired because of freshman running backs and a small-ish, Rich Rodriguez-recruited running back who was asked to do too much? No, I do not.

j.o.s.e maizenblue

January 9th, 2014 at 6:23 PM ^

I too agree that its not a good indicator... but I also think "the victim of poor schemes" is a lame excuse. Our freshman RB were better at blocking and running than Toussaint, who had years to develop the skill and understand the scheme. Senior RB's are expected to block well and the example of Vincent Smith is a perfect example of which.... You could say Toussaints shortfall at this skill was a result of poor coaching, but I truly believe it was more of a case that he didnt like to block.


January 9th, 2014 at 6:31 PM ^

"You could say Toussaints shortfall at this skill was a result of poor coaching, but I truly believe it was more of a case that he didnt like to block."

I don't think Toussaint was ever a great blocker, but I saw him throw his body around a little bit, and he would still end up giving up a sack or at least getting trucked. There are exceptions to every rule (Vincent Smith was a good blocker despite being tiny, Jeremy Gallon was a good jump ball guy despite being 5'8", etc.), but there's often a reason that stereotypes develop. In this case, a small-ish back (5'10", 200 lbs.) wasn't a very good blocker. That shouldn't shock too many people. Michigan didn't really have a ton of great options, though. All the other guys were freshmen (Smith, Green) or not very good themselves (Hayes, Rawls).


January 9th, 2014 at 3:33 PM ^

Fred Jackson has coached multiple all-time leading rushers (Anthony Thomas - 13 years ago, Mike Hart - 6 years ago) and first round picks (Tyrone Wheatley - 19 years ago, Tshimanga Biakabutuka - 18 years ago, Chris Perry - 10 years ago).

Look a little less impressive looking at time lapsed.


January 9th, 2014 at 7:53 PM ^

I think the only back who has looked like he made a major leap under Jackson recently was Fitz in 2011, canceled out by two years of regression.

Either he has forgotten how to coach or he is so dependant on the talent of his players and the offensive line that he is expendable. The point is, you are trying to use a lot of ancient history in your argument. What happened a generation ago is not relevant to the here and now.


January 9th, 2014 at 9:27 PM ^

"The point is, you are trying to use a lot of ancient history in your argument. What happened a generation ago is not relevant to the here and now."

I don't consider 2007 ancient history, nor do I consider Brandon Minor to be ancient history. Nor Fitzgerald Toussaint. Michigan had a historically bad offensive line in 2013, and a pretty bad one in 2012, and you're pretending that it's somehow on Fred Jackson. Let me remind you that the 2011 offensive line wasn't anything super special, but somehow Denard and Toussaint each ran for 1,000 yards.


January 9th, 2014 at 5:19 PM ^

It's pretty common for former players to come back and be position coaches at their alma mater. To be a good position coach, you need to be knowledgable of the position and a good recruiter and not a lot more. If you're someone like Hart or Wheatley, you likely accomplish both of those points and then some. Being an alumnus helps because you'll be less likely to be hired away and you'll be a super passionate recruiter.

Was Mike Vrabel the best position coach OSU could have found? Probably not, but he was a name who loves OSU so he was a great hire.


January 9th, 2014 at 6:49 PM ^

I don't know if they would, regarding Jansen.  People suggest guys like Hart and Wheatley not just because they were standout running backs here, but because they've also been coaches, and have shown some aptitude there (obviously Wheatley more than Hart).  No one is suggesting Perry or A-Train come coach our RBs, even though they were equally as accomplished at Michigan.  

I agree with you completely that I wouldn't want to hire a Michigan guy who wasn't qualified, but those kind of names aren't really thrown out (outside of obvious jokes like TB or Woodson leaving the league to be a position coach for us).  But if Jackson were to retire, I think Wheatley would be a slam dunk hire and Hart would be a good second choice.  

Remember what Mike Hart was like on the sidelines as a player?  Imagine him as a coach.  He'd be a great motivator.  


January 10th, 2014 at 2:52 PM ^

We are talking about college coaches here. A lot of their job is recruiting. Its easier to sell recruits in coming to Michigan when you yourself made that decision. That is the biggest advantage for hiring former players.

Also, these guys probably have Michigan as their dream job. This provides some stability (they're probably not looking to leave) as well as the potential for promotion from within (Nuss becomes HC elsewhere, Wheatley gets a crack at being OC).


January 9th, 2014 at 1:25 PM ^

Recruiting strength is good but there would be absolutey no drop off if for instance Tyrone Wheatley took over.  He has recruited Detroit extensively and is actually one of the stars Jackson promotes that he has coached.

Jackson did not want Ingrahm.  Cut loose Cox. Could you assign  Grady's demise to him on the field?  Not sure.

Hoke ends up being the capstone to the recruiting of these players even though the recruiter and/or position coach are integral.  They say yes to Michigan in large part after meeting with Brady.



January 9th, 2014 at 3:16 PM ^

For Syracuse.  Was here constantly.  Would have to go look up all that had offers to Syracuse during his time there but he was here.  Worked the Sound Mind/Body camp as well.  I know a number of Cass Tech kids over the last few seasons, I think Shallman had an offer if I remember (as a RB too), several BBR kids, etc.  He definately has the network here. 

Rumors are he wants to get back to a college gig and especially here.  Took Bills job along with his head coach. 


January 9th, 2014 at 1:02 PM ^

Why not? what has fred jackson done lately.  He is dead weight in my opinion, his running back are not doing anythign lately.  Also Funk should go, get new blood.  I dont want to repeat the RR experience, fire the coordinator and keep the entire coaching staff.  That means you are not allowing the coordinator to succeed.  Belien had the entire staff changed.  That is how you make a change.  If the entire offensive staff is kept, then Nuss wont succeed either. Do we not learn from our past experiences


January 9th, 2014 at 12:51 PM ^

I think the biggest thing that Nussmeier can change (aside from the staff) is the various blocking schemes that Borges tried. I would imagine that Nussmeier is going to bring his inside zone run game, and I think he will run those plays to death. Alabama doesn't pull guards and centers and tackles, at least not very often. People have been wanting Michigan to develop a staple play, and I think inside zone will be it.


January 9th, 2014 at 1:21 PM ^

We have to get bigger and stronger up front. I think it can be successful, but it's going to take some work in the weight room. I would guess that Nussmeier will want his offensive linemen beefed up a little bit, which might require some adjustments from the players and from Aaron Wellman. Ultimately, Wellman's job is to get the guys ready to the coaches' specifications, so if that's what Nussmeier wants, I think Wellman can/should/will get it done.

Inside zone doesn't require a ton of lateral quickness. I think this might bring Chris Bryant back into play as an option at offensive guard, provided he can stay healthy. Get a little more beef on some of the other guys, work on the combo blocks, and we'll see what happens.


January 9th, 2014 at 2:40 PM ^

I don't think it does at all. Plenty of NFL teams run inside zone schemes, and Alabama, for one, has produced several high-caliber NFL linemen (Warmack, Carpenter, Barrett Jones, etc.). I think being a zone blocker used to be a knock back when Rich Rodriguez was having success in the early 2000's, but it's so rampant in college and the NFL now that it's not a negative stereotype anymore.


January 9th, 2014 at 2:11 PM ^

But I sometimes play him on the internet. 

It seems to me (not a football savant) that the scheme we used required more mobility from our guards than what Bama ran. It seems pretty logical that we wanted to keep our lineman more svelte and agile because of that (not to the extent RR did though). I'll wait for Magnus to correct me now.