Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated and Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports are both reporting that former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who spent a year in football purgatory at Michigan in 2014, is soon to be named the offensive coordinator at Florida by head coach Jim McElwain. Nussmeier and McElwain worked together on John L. Smith’s Michigan State staff from 2002-05 and Nussmeier followed in McElwain’s footsteps at Fresno State (2008) and Alabama (2012).
While some might view this as a crony hire, Nussmeier’s record of working with quarterbacks has everything to do with McElwain bringing in his old friend. If there is one constant in Florida’s offensive woes the last four years it is the inconsistency and lack of playmaking abilities of the quarterbacks. The only real success the Gators had at quarterback was the 2012 season when Jeff Driskel’s offensive package was severely curtailed. Was the simplicity of the Florida offense in 2012 a lack of ability on Driskel’s part or was it a lack of development at the position?
You could actually ask that question of whoever played quarterback the last four years. Tyler Murphy, who came in to start when Driskel broke his ankle in 2013, transferred out after graduating last December. He quarterbacked Boston College to a 7-5 record and a bowl game and was the nation’s leading rusher among quarterbacks. Obviously, he developed more in one year at BC than he did in the previous four at UF.
The lack of quarterback development was pinned on offensive coordinator Brent Pease, who was shown the door in favor of Duke QB/OC Kurt Roper. Roper got Driskel to look like a world beater in Florida’s first couple of games but once he started playing decent competition, Driskel turned dreadful and was benched in favor of Harris. Harris had some moments when he played very well, but his inability to make plays with the game on the line cost Florida an upset win over Florida State.
Looking ahead to 2015, it is expected that Driskel will transfer out. He has graduated so he won’t have to sit out a season and the change of scenery can’t hurt. He will have the option of staying and competing for the starting job and it certainly won’t hurt that he’ll have the opportunity to work under Nussmeier, who turned A.J. McCarron into a national championship caliber quarterback at Alabama.
Harris, who was charged with driving without a license in a car that reeked of marijuana, has good feet and instincts but he lacks arm strength. Will Grier, who took a redshirt as a true freshman last year, has the rocket arm, but he’s a skinny kid who certainly needs to add muscle and bulk to withstand the rigors of the SEC.
Driskel, Harris and Grier were all highly recruited out of high school but is there one of them capable of playing at a high level in the SEC? The odds are against Driskel, who really does need to bolt. Harris is listed at 5-11 but he’s probably closer to 5-10 and doesn’t fit McElwain’s prototype but he has a history of winning so you would think there is some hope. Grier has the best physical potential and he probably has the most upside between the ears since he didn’t have to absorb and put into action the Roper offense.
This is the crew that Nussmeier will inherit. While he will be listed as the offensive coordinator, he’s going to be running McElwain’s offense. In reality, he’s coming to Gainesville to see if he can polish up the skills at the quarterback position enough to give the Gators a fighting chance heading into 2015.
Florida State and Jimbo Fisher have agreed to an eight-year contract extension which will pay him approximately $5.5 million a year. Fisher is 58-10 since taking over for Bobby Bowden in 2010 and owns a 29-game winning streak heading into next week’s final four game with Oregon in the Rose Bowl. The big contract for Fisher and commitment to upgrade the football facilities should keep the Seminoles in the national title hunt for years to come.
If you’re a Seminole, the comments by Baine Kerr, lawyer for the woman who accused FSU quarterback Jameis Winston of rape, are nothing but sour grapes. If you are like the rest of the folks in college football who make occasional drive by appearances in the real world, then you agree wholeheartedly with Kerr’s comments about the decision that exonerated Winston by retired Florida Supreme Court chief justice Major Harding.
From the moment it was announced that Winston would have to appear at a hearing before the Student Conduct Committee presided over by Harding, most rational thinkers figured Winston would skate. Of course, Harding’s decision only confirmed those fears.
Reacting to the decision, Kerr said, "I don't want to impugn the proceeding as corrupt, but I think it was biased and the fix was in. It's all about a football game 10 days from today. It turned out to be just a predetermined whitewash to keep a guy playing football."
Kerr’s client has the right to appeal Harding’s decision. The appeal is likely although it’s even more unlikely to produce a different decision. What the appeal could do is open up further records that could open the door for a civil suit.
Former Heisman winner Johnny Manziel showed up in Cleveland and thought he would start from day one. He sat the bench most of the year, threw for only 175 yards and had a final quarterback rating of 42.0 when he suffered a season-ending injury last Sunday. Now that he’s got a year of pro football under his belt, Johnny Football has taken stock in his lack of rookie year accomplishments and noted that it might be a good idea to take long look at his approach to the game.
"It's been a year of growing up for me,” Manziel said Tuesday. “This is a job for me now. I have to take this a lot more seriously."
Florida defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin, doubling up as the head coach as the Gators prep for the Birmingham Bowl, could have some big decisions to make. If Jim Harbaugh takes the Michigan job, there will likely be a place on his staff for Durkin, who was on Harbaugh’s Stanford staff. With defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi likely taking the head coaching job at Pitt (per Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated), Durkin could be on the short list for head coach Mark Dantonio at Michigan State … Marshall gave former Gator assistant Doc Holliday the perfect ending to a great season by laying a 52-23 whipping on Northern Illinois in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl. When Pitt approached Doc about taking over following Paul Chryst leaving for Wisconsin, Marshall hustled up a new contract that will give Doc a substantial raise (he made $600,000 this year) and a long-term extension … When UAB president Thomas Watts made the decision to drop football for financial reasons, he apparently didn’t take into consideration what it would do to the rest of the athletic department. UAB will have to leave Conference USA and without that revenue, the rest of the athletic program probably goes belly up … Gary Danielson of CBS got all four teams in the final four in his August predictions … In Marshall’s win over Northern Illinois, Rakeem Cato extended his streak of games with a touchdown pass to 46 in a row. Cato threw for 131 touchdowns and almost 14,000 yards in his career … The Marshall-Northern Illinois game drew a crowd of 15,000 at FAU stadium …
With Driskel likely to transfer out, who do you think will emerge as Florida’s starting quarterback for next season?
Pat Metheny’s 1991 Grammy Award winning album “Secret Story” featured the London Symphony Orchestra and a Cambodian children’s choir, but the best song is “Always and Forever” which features Metheny with beautiful backup by the orchestra and then a hauntingly beautiful harmonica solo by Toots Thielemans. Thielemans is 92 years old and still playing. He is said to be the greatest harmonica player ever but he’s also one of the great whistlers of all time. I caught him many, many years ago on The Tonight Show when he whistled with Doc Severinson’s orchestra and was blown away.