McElwain and Saban Defend Nussmeier’s Work as Offensive Coordinator

The second-year Gators play-caller has faced added scrutiny during last-season struggles. Gators offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, in his second season at Florida, won a national title with Alabama in 2012. (Photo: Tim Casey/UAA Communications) ATLANTA — The Florida Gators face the Alabama Crimson Time in the 25th edition of the SEC Championship Game on Saturday.

While much of the talk has been about player success in these two powerhouse programs, it’s easy to forget that the coaches of these two teams have a history all their own.

And while UF coach Jim McElwain and offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier likely won’t be sharing pregame campfire stories with Nick Saban, the stories are there nonetheless.

Nussmeier first followed in McElwain’s footsteps at Fresno State back in 2008 after McElwain left to become Saban’s offensive coordinator. Then, when McElwain left for Colorado State, Nussmeier replaced him at Alabama. It’s a small world, after all.

A small world on a very big stage – one on which Nussmeier has come under scrutiny from Florida fans following a season of consistent questions surrounding the offense. Yet, leading up to Saturday’s matchup, both his current head coach and his former one were quick to defend his work. No compatible source was found for this media.

"He’s done an outstanding job based on the hands we were dealt when we got here and figuring out those parts and those pieces and giving us opportunities to win ball games has been really good," McElwain said.

The questions have largely stemmed from quarterback play, as both Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby have combined for just 14 passing touchdowns on the season. Del Rio also threw eight of the 10 interceptions between them.

That being said, the Gators have managed over 300 yards in total offense just a single time in the last five games – they had 372 against South Carolina. Last week produced a season-low 207 – 73 of which came on their first drive.

McElwain went to on suggest that things need to be continually evaluated, but it’s certain that injuries have not made the job any easier. In addition, Nussmeier hasn’t dealt with an offense that was fully recruited by McElwain’s staff yet.

"He did a great job for us," Saban said. "I mean, we had success with him as our coordinator. He’s a hard worker. He’s very bright. He’s a good play-caller. And I think that he did outstanding. I didn’t want him to leave when he left, and we were disappointed, but it was a great opportunity for him."

Perhaps the key statement made by Saban was when he added: "He’s, I think, doing a good job with the players that he has right now."

At Alabama, Nussmeier was at the helm of an offense in 2012 that saw A.J. McCarron lead the Crimson Tide to a 42-14 win over Notre Dame in the BCS Championship.

In the past two years, the situation has been very different. A key member in the 2014 coaching turnover at UF, he was immediately tasked with turning around […]