Well, the ante just got upped a bit.
Michigan’s offense – featuring a number of players who couldn’t block and an offensive scheme that didn’t seem to mitigate that fact, except against Ohio State – was painful to watch this season at times, so Brady Hoke stepped in and made a quick change.
Out is Al Borges, who had been with Hoke for the past five years at both San Diego State and Michigan. In, according to multiple national reporters, is Alabama’s Doug Nussmeier.
That’s right, the Wolverines went out and took away an assistant coach from perhaps the gold standard program in college football, and did it in record time. Even if Nussmeier wasn’t exactly beloved at the moment in Tuscaloosa, the man has a national title ring on his finger from 2012 and helped make A.J. McCarron into a household name. He brings pro-style credentials to Michigan and has coached under John L. Smith, Scott Linehan and Steve Sarkisian, respected offensive minds all.
This is welcome news for a conference that has been lambasted for its institutions’ reticence to pay top dollar for assistant coaching salaries, especially in the face of the ridiculous amounts of money that the Big Ten Network has pushed into the coffers of league schools.
That storyline has been a bit overblown – three of the top 11 assistant coaches in the nation in terms of salary, per USA Today, in 2013 were Big Ten coaches. At the top of that list is Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison, whose salary of $851,400 checked in fourth. But on the whole, this is a league that has needed to show it wants to make an investment in the coaching ranks, and this aggressive move is the kind that can elevate the whole thing, from a rising tide lifts all boats kind of way.
But here’s another angle – what does this mean for Ohio State’s search for help on the defensive side of the football now that co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers has left to take over the head coaching job at James Madison?
Urban Meyer has said the Buckeyes need a “home run” hire to replace Withers, and it might be fair to say the stakes have been raised even higher now that Michigan has hit one out of the park with the hiring of Nussmeier.
It appears defensive coordinator Luke Fickell (who checked in fourth in the Big Ten in assistant pay last year at $610,000) isn’t going anywhere, but there's no doubt that finishing 46th in the nation in total defense and 110th in passing defense means the status quo is not on the table.
This year, Michigan had a coordinator who put up 41 points and more than 600 yards of offense on Ohio State – and he got fired when a major upgrade presented itself. Now, the ball is in Ohio State's court to respond.
This was a power move by Michigan, a program that needed one both for itself and its conference.
Now, don’t expect Meyer to sit idly by as he fills out his staff, as well.