Quarterback development key for Nussmeier

Jim McElwain’s decision to bring Doug Nussmeier was about familiarity, but it also pairs together two coaches with proven track records for quarterback development.

With McElwain taking on head coach responsibilities, it’s Nussmeier that will spend his time coaching the quarterback position for Florida. He has worked with quarterbacks Marc Bulger, Brian Hoyer, Jake Locker, A.J. McCarron and Drew Stanton throughout his coaching career, and Bulger was the only one that he coached in the NFL.

Nussmeier developed the rest at the college level. Three of the remaining four have started games in the NFL, with McCarron, who just finished his rookie year, being the only quarterback that hasn’t started at that level.

He’ll be the coach working with the quarterbacks, but McElwain will still be involved at the position.

“I wouldn't be here today if coach Mac didn't think he and I saw the position the same way in how you teach the position and the development and those types of things,” Doug Nussmeier said.

Nussmeier’s ability to develop starts with skills the quarterbacks must have before they start working on the field. He wants a fast thinker that can make quick decisions and get the ball out with confidence. If he can anticipate who is about to come open, it makes everything else easier on the field.

But it’s still an inexact science. Nussmeier even called it the toughest position to evaluate in sports, and that’s why they put in so much time to make sure they’re going after the right quarterbacks at the high school level.

“No. 1, you talk about the character, you talk about what kind of person are you getting,” Nussmeier said about high school quarterbacks. “We talk all the time in our room, we talk about everything matters. Everything that you do matters. Then when you look at the football side of things, there’s characteristics. You start talking about the decision-making, the feet, the eyes, the ability to anticipate and arm strength. All of those things play in.

“There is no perfect player at any position. When you define the characteristics that you’re looking for, you evaluate the player. They’re maybe deficient in one category, but they may have a redeeming quality in this category. There’s many that we look at.”

The Florida offensive coordinator made it clear on Friday that he would like to sign one quarterback in every recruiting class. It’s late in the game for the staff to get started with less than a month until signing day, but the Gators are still trying to make that happen with Deondre Francois and Lamar Jackson currently on the board.

Nussmeier takes over a quarterback meeting room with two former high school All-American. Treon Harris got hit feet wet this season, starting the final six games of the year but only completing 49.5 percent of his passes for 1,019 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He played well at times but also showed he needs to improve on his accuracy down the field.

While Harris played, fellow freshman Will Grier redshirted. He could serve as a better fit in McElwain and Nussmeier’s offense, but the two will have the chance to battle it out during spring practice.

Nussmeier didn’t want to limit the job to either Grier or Harris.

“I think it will be a great competition,” Nussmeier said. “I don’t think there’s any reason to say it will just be two. At every position on offense, we want to create competition. You want to have the best players you can because competition makes players better.

“Any time you have young quarterbacks, it’s difficult because it takes time. Everybody wants instant results. But the good thing is you get to build them from phase one. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to coach these guys, and the situation here.”

The development of the position has held the Florida program back since Tim Tebow left after the 2009 season. It’s an important one going forward, and even Nussmeier admitted the position can go a long way in impacting how good a team is.

“I think at every level of football, you look at teams that have good quarterbacks,” Nussmeier said. “They’re successful teams. It’s hard to find teams that don’t have a good quarterback that are successful.”

Fightin Gators Top Stories