- Alex Scarborough, ESPN Staff Writer
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Editor’s note: Each day between now and Alabama's date with Notre Dame in the Discover BCS National Championship, we will review the season for a key Crimson Tide player or coach and attempt to project what’s next for him. Today we’ll look at offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
Finished in the top 20 in rushing offense (224.6 yards per game) and scoring offense (38.46 points per game)
Role in 2012: Nussmeier integrated himself into the Alabama offense rather than rebuild it completely, staying with the physical identity that coach Jim McElwain built before heading to Colorado State last season.
The good: The first-year coordinator brought new life to offense in one respect -- the big play. Nussmeier opened up the playbook and gave more control to quarterback AJ McCarron to make more changes at the line of scrimmage and take more shots downfield. The change resulted in a more potent passing game, particularly off of play-action. McCarron had 11 touchdown passes off of play-action, six more than a season ago.
The bad: There were times this season where it looked as if Alabama was in the midst of an identity crisis. One moment the Tide would punch the ball downfield using Eddie Lacy, T.J. Yeldon and their dominant offensive line in two-tight-end formations. The next moment UA would spread the field with three and four wide receivers, push the tempo and try to win the game through the air. You might stretch to call that balance if it was more effective. But it wasn't. There were many times this season (LSU, Texas A&M, Georgia) where the inconsistency between run and pass hurt Alabama's offense.
Crystal ball: Alabama's offense is headed one direction or another. The call is Nussmeier's. Will it be a physical, run-first attack? Or will it open up and put the game in the hands of its quarterback? That remains to be seen, but the question must be answered. Flipping back and forth won't work. Alabama will have a senior quarterback and a deep, talented group of receivers next year. The allure to tip the scales in favor of the pass will be tempting, but at what cost? Lacy may bolt for the NFL, but there are still a number of talented tailbacks remaining. Alabama has gone to three championship games in four years using the same tried and true formula. Is what happens next a question of evolution, adjustment or something more?