Fred Jackson tells it like it is and follows through—that’s how he’s maintained high positions within Michigan’s coaching staff for 23 years.
The guy knows what he’s doing, especially when it comes to coaching running backs and gauging offensive talent. When asked about the addition of new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier—and how his presence impacts the team's style of play—the Wolverines' elder statesman didn’t mince words.
“Well, having Doug Nussmeier—just watch Alabama, and you know we’re going to play very similar,” Jackson recently said in Detroit. “Our offense will be very similar to what Alabama’s doing. We’re working our asses off to make sure that we can be successful running the ball.”
Now, overall, the Michigan-Alabama comparison doesn’t fly.
However, when looking at two position groups, it begins to make a little more sense because there are two strong common factors: the offensive line—namely its potential—and the stable of runners.
Like Alabama, Michigan’s been able to pull elite athletes at those respective positions. Now, Michigan has the guy who called the shots for the Tide, a program that put up gaudy numbers while Nussmeier X’d and O’d in Tuscaloosa.
According to CBSSports.com’s Bruce Feldman, the Tide set records in offensive touchdowns (68), points (542) and total offense (6,237 yards) in 2012. CFBStats.com indicates that Michigan racked up 4,855 total yards (1,634 on the ground) and scored 419 points in 2013.
So, yeah, playing like Alabama—a true pro-style team—would be a good thing...
What Nussmeier Had at ‘Bama
In short, Nussmeier had one of the NCAA’s most punishing backfields for two years running.
Now entering his junior year, T.J. Yeldon has been one of the most feared ball-carriers in the game—and that’s partly due to coaching from his former OC. Derrick Henry (junior), Jalston Fowler (senior) and Kenyan Drake (junior) round out an incredibly deep pool of talent.
Maybe Nussmeier can achieve similar results in Ann Arbor, where has Derrick Green, De’Veon Smith, Drake Johnson, Justice Hayes, Sione Houma waiting for the word “Go.”
“There’s no such thing as too many running backs,” said Jackson. “Whatever you do [as a coach], you take the guys and work them in, and they’ll make sure they get the opportunity to show what they can and can’t do.”
Jackson’s right, and his philosophy is pretty much universal—because there’s also no such thing as too many linemen.
With that being said, it’s only right to mention that Nussmeier benefitted from stout O-lines. In 2013, he had a pair of early first-rounders. Chance Wormack (guard) went at No. 10 to Tennessee while D.J. Fluker (tackle) was picked at No. 11 by San Diego.
In 2014, Cyrus Kouandjio, another tackle, was selected No. 44 overall by Buffalo.
Michigan is in desperate need of assistance up front, and Nussmeier’s recent success with the Tide does more than prompt optimism—it sets the bar extremely high for the upcoming season.
As luck would have it, he’s working without Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield, and he’s shuffling in a group with less combined starts than years in college.
But they’re all highly touted recruits, so it shouldn’t be that difficult, right?
In fairness to the comparison, expecting “very similar” efforts would be wiser than expecting “very similar” results from the O-line. There aren’t any Flukers or Wormacks today, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any come Week 4 or 5.
Jackson is confident that Nussmeier will bring that type of magic to Ann Arbor.
What Nussmeier Has at UM
As mentioned, he has a young O-line. However, players such as Kyle Kalis, Ben Braden and Erik Magnuson, among others, have been around for a couple of years. They just haven’t seen the field (redshirts, injury, etc.).
In all likelihood, getting those guys into regular roles will be one of Nussmeier’s top priorities. It should be, anyway.
Now, it’s back to the backfield because Michigan fans would love to see a Yeldon-esque runner in maize and blue each Saturday. Might that be Ty Isaac, a 6’3”, 240-pound USC transfer? He’s nearly the same size, and like Yeldon, he was highly sought-after as a high schooler.
And what about Green and Smith? They’re valuable components to the Wolverines’ all-sophomore trio—a trio that won’t exist if Isaac can’t clear waivers in time to play fall.
Nussmeier knows these guys. They’re not “new” types of talents. They’re the same ones he tried to lure down south. Now he’s up north. There isn’t a whole lot of difference, other than in win totals, between personnel groups.
If Jackson says to expect something like Alabama, expect it. The Tide's now rolling off the Great Lakes and into The Big House.
Quotes were obtained firsthand by the writer.
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81