Everyone knew a coordinator change meant that Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner would be running a different offense this season, and Wolverines coach Brady Hoke gave some details Wednesday night.
Hoke, who is entering his fourth season, fired offensive coordinator Al Borges after the season and hired Doug Nussmeier away from Alabama. Offensive production dropped each season under Borges and has fallen way off from the days of Rich Rodriguez. Michigan averaged 488.7 total yards in 2010, Rodriguez's last season; the numbers under Borges were 404.7 yards in 2011, 383.1 in 2012 and 373.5 last season. Last season's total was 10th in the 12-team Big Ten, ahead of only Minnesota and hapless Purdue.
As to what this season's offense will be like under Nussmeier -- and with Gardner at the controls -- Hoke spoke of "multiple formations" on his weekly Wednesday night radio show.
"You're going to get the quarterback under center, the quarterback in the gun in different situations," he said on the show, as reported by the Detroit Free Press. "Third-down packages. There will be three wides, four wides, just looking at down-and-distance situations.
"The thing you want to do from an offensive perspective, you look at how people defend different formations from different teams. If you feel you've got a mismatch you want to take advantage of or maybe you've got a better blocking angle for your guys up front -- you want to do what your guys do well."
That seemed to be an issue with Borges, who never seemed all that comfortable with Gardner as his quarterback. Borges was a pro-set guy, while Gardner was brought in to run the spread by Rodriguez. Gardner has excellent mobility and is a strong runner; while he has a great arm, he remains relatively raw as a passer. Borges seemed ill-at-ease with having Gardner run and instead tried to make him into a dropback passer, which didn't work. Nussmeier will keep the pro-set attack, but going by what Hoke said, it looks as if Michigan will be trying to take full advantage of Gardner's athleticism.
The offense lacks a proven tailback, features a rebuilt line and has as its best wide receiver (Devin Funchess) a tight end who was moved in the spring, so the pressure definitely is on Gardner and Nussmeier. Michigan opens Saturday with FCS newcomer Appalachian State, then plays at Notre Dame in Week 2.