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January 3, 2013

Nussmeier makes his mark

FORT LAUDERDALE | For the individual perspective on Doug Nussmeier, AJ McCarron can speak to the University of Alabama offensive coordinator's first-year impact on the Crimson Tide as well as anyone.

The second-year quarterback believes Nussmeier's handprint on the offense is evident in his passing statistics.

"He's brought a bunch of different plays, also a different type of mindset to this offense than we had last year. But I know personally, he's helped me tremendously," McCarron said. "... I have less pass attempts than what I did last year, but better numbers all the way around, and I think that shows a big part of his coaching ability and the way he's helped me grow, not only as a leader but as a quarterback this year."

The hard data supports McCarron's contention.

In the same number of games and starts that McCarron had in 2011, he has thrown 42 fewer passes this season (328 last year, 286 this year). But his touchdown-interception ratio improved vastly year over year (16-5 to 26-3), and fewer attempts even netted a slight improvement in total passing yards.

Nussmeier will bring the nation's 14th-ranked scoring offense into Monday's BCS National Championship Game against Notre Dame at 38.5 points per game. And he's done it as a first-year coach who had to replace a Heisman Trophy finalist from his backfield in former UA star Trent Richardson.

The way junior wide receiver Kevin Norwood sees it, Nussmeier's transition into the offense has been more seamless than ground-breaking.

"Not a lot was changed. He just added some of his flavor in," said Norwood. "Basically we're trying to get into a passing offense. Trying to give us receivers a chance to make plays, which he does a great job of."

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For the bigger perspective, Nussmeier himself said Thursday that his influence on the offense had to start with recognizing the talent and tools he was inheriting from friend and predecessor Jim McElwain.

"When I got here at the end of the year and coach hired me, it was really important for me to dive into the offense that was here, obviously that had success, and look at the things that our players had done and done well," Nussmeier said. "And then find things that maybe I had done in the past that I could bring to help fit into this system, so to say."

Through a 12-1 season, one of Nussmeier's high moments as a playcaller was the two-minute drive to steal a win over LSU, without which Alabama would not be in the BCS title game. Offensive struggles against Texas A&M in the Crimson Tide's lone loss of the season provided the low points, but Nussmeier said it all must be taken in with perspective.

"You evaluate every play call throughout every game, and when you look at the big picture of things, you can't get lost in the result. You have to look at the process and what got you to that point," Nussmeier said. "We're always self-scouting, always evaluating. Any time you make a call, you come out of a game, 'God, I wish I had that call back. I wish I could call that again', (or) 'That was a pretty good call, in that situation.' You can do that. And the ones that work are always good ones, and the ones that don't are always bad ones."

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0196.



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