Michigan slow to progress on offense in first season under coordinator Doug Nussmeier



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ANN ARBOR, Michigan — Doug Nussmeier's offense has fallen well short of expectations at Michigan.

When Nussmeier was hired away from Alabama to be the Wolverines' offensive coordinator before the season, Michigan moved on from Al Borges' West Coast offense and installed a pro-style system that emphasized power football. But unless the Wolverines can upset No. 7 Ohio State on Saturday, they won't even make it to a bowl.

"Everyone wants instant gratification," Nussmeier said. "We all do, as coaches and as players. You want to show up and have everything go as planned. It doesn't work that way. We're playing a lot of young players. They're growing, and when you see that a lot of times with young players you'll get guys that will flash and play well maybe in one game. . I think one of the biggest things is finding consistency in performance."

Nussmeier spoke like a man hoping for better things in the future, but it's unclear who will be in charge of Michigan's offense next year. Coach Brady Hoke's job status is uncertain as this dismal season winds down.

At the beginning of the season, Nussmeier said his offense was in its infancy. A few weeks later, when the unit struggled mightily against Utah, he said the offense was just crawling.

After almost an entire season, Nussmeier's offense still has problems standing on its own two feet.

"Obviously our expectations are a lot higher than where we're at right now," Nussmeier said. "As I've touched on throughout the season, you talk about individual improvement (and it) hasn't necessarily led to total group improvement. (I) do feel good about the things that we're progressing in."

This past weekend against a struggling Maryland defense, the Wolverines rushed for 292 yards, but quarterback Devin Gardner, a fifth-year senior, continued to struggle, going 13 of 24 for 106 yards with a tipped interception.

Nussmeier's emphasis on the ground game is a big part of the new offense. His running schemes are simpler than what Michigan run under Borges, making things easier for the offensive line. But Gardner's progress has stagnated under Nussmeier.

Gardner's best passing performance this year came against Indiana, when he threw for 220 yards and two touchdowns, the only time he's surpassed the 200-yard mark this season. Gardner's mobility was limited because of an injury. Against Maryland, he had his best rushing performance of the season, but the passing game was nonexistent.

Wide receiver Devin Funchess has struggled with drops in recent weeks, and sophomore tight end Jake Butt has been a non-factor lately. There have been a couple bright spots — the emergence of receiver Amara Darboh and running back Drake Johnson. But their success has not been nearly enough.

"Talk about individual accomplishments and the development of Amara Darboh," Nussmeier said, pointing out some offensive highlights. "I think (he's) a guy that you look at what he's done over the course of the season. A true left tackle, Mason Cole (and) his individual growth. We lose (running back) Derrick Green and see De'Veon (Smith) step up and Drake."

With the Buckeyes on deck, Nussmeier's offense will face a rugged defense in its next chance to shine.

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