Appleby ITG Subscriber Q&A I: Going in-depth on Florida's offense
After answering numerous questions about his time with the Florida Gators football team as part of Inside the Gators' Parting Thoughts series, former Florida quarterback Austin Appleby was kind enough to take time out of his schedule to answer an array of questions from ITG's subscribers.
Today, we take a look at the insight Appleby provided when answering a number of subscribers' offense-related questions.
Latsko: Does Jim McElwain allow Doug Nussmeier to run the whole offense? How much influence does Mac have in the offense and play-calling?
Appleby: Coach Mac hears everything and gives a great deal of input. If there are certain things he wants to get to, he’ll say, “Hey, let’s dial up a deep ball here,” or something like that. But he’s not calling plays. Coach Nuss is the play-caller and it’s Coach Nuss’ offense. I couldn’t tell you what they do during the week of preparation, as far as how they get their play calls put together. But, it is Coach Nuss’ offense.
He’s got full autonomy as to what he wants and how he wants to get there. I’m sure – and I know – that Coach Mac does a great deal of work. He’s an offensive coach, he watches a great deal of film. He gives his ideas, and if there’s something he wants in, you better believe it’s in there.
But I’ve heard over the headset before, like Mac will come over to Nuss and be like, “Hey, it’s time to get to this play,” or “Hey, that safety is creeping up. It’s time to take your shot.” Or, “Hey, let’s run the ball here. Let’s let our defense go win this thing for us. Let’s shorten the game here, let’s run the ball, let’s run the clock a little bit.” Or, “Hey, we’ve got them leaning now. Let’s put our foot on their throat and try to hit a knockout shot.”
Coach Mac feels the flow of the game per se and will dial up what he needs. He’s kind of the manager, I guess, if you think about baseball. If he wants something in particular, he’ll make those things. But, he’s not calling the pitches, if that makes sense.
Appleby: I don't know, probably because we already had one quarterback hurt. If I got hurt, then what? I don't think you want to put in a true freshman against any of the teams that we played down the stretch - LSU, Florida State or Alabama or a ranked Iowa. I'm trying to think like a coach - when you're down to your two, it would have been nice to let me run a little more and I was effective at it when we had to. I would have loved to have done it more. I think it's a lesson.
But I think at the end of the day, Coach was trying to protect me. It's punishing, the amount of hits I took just in the pocket. Over the course of a game, it's maybe not necessarily bad, but throwing it and getting knocked down or getting hit after a throw, those add up. I think Coach Nuss was trying to protect his quarterbacks and not let them take unnecessary hits because of the fact that we had our struggles up front.
Appleby: I think it’s whatever the quarterback needs. I frankly don’t care. I’ve had both when I was at Purdue. My coordinator was up in the box and you’d talk to him. Coach Nuss would actually be up in the box at times during like scrimmages and stuff. I think it’s his comfort level. Some coaches need to be down on the field to feel the flow of the game and be able to look at their guys in the eye and make those adjustments and fixes. They don’t have to worry about a graduate assistant being able to relay the message they’re trying to relay to the entire team.
So, it’s wherever the coordinator feels he can be most effective to his team. But personally, I don’t care. It doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t think it bothers any quarterback at all. I think wherever Nuss feels like he can be at – you’ve got people up in the box on the headsets that are giving him all of the information that he needs. People are talking coverage, front, “Hey, that was this split, that split. This is the situation.” There are so many things that get communicated over the course of a game on the sideline. He stands right next to the quarterback and you go through your next drive and make your corrections from the previous one. All those types can be done from the top, and all those things can be done sitting next to the quarterback.
It’s the coordinator’s preference, it’s the quarterback’s preference. Some guys are like, “Get the hell away from me. It’s my game, go up in the box and we’ll talk on the headset. I don’t need somebody who’s holding my hand the whole time.” Some people are like, “Come on down, let’s put our heads together and do this.” It doesn’t matter.
sternsgator: What is McElwain like when recruiting players? Do the players seem responsive to Mac? If not, why?
Appleby: My situation was a little bit different. You can say I was technically recruited last year. That said, the way I went through it, being a fifth-year senior, the things that are important to me – I mean, I know the game. The recruiting ploys and the nice facilities and the gear, those didn’t really make much of a difference, because as a fifth-year, you’re trying to win and move on to the next level and be the best you can possibly be.
In everything that I’ve seen not just from Coach Mac but the entire staff, I can say this much. When you go through the recruiting process, there’s all of fluff, crap, for a lack of a better term. Teams do whatever they’ve got to do to get you to sign, maybe. I never got a bigger sense of this staff, particularly led by Coach Mac, that cares about the player.
What the recruiting looks like day to day, how they talk to guys, what they do to sell the program, I really don’t know. But I can say once the guys are here – once I got here – it’s not like there’s the recruiting act and once you sign on the dotted line and enroll in school, it’s not like, “I don’t recognize that coach anymore because he doesn’t act like that anymore.” I’ve heard a lot of stories from a lot of guys at a lot of different places where that happens. That doesn’t happen here. These guys are exactly who they appear to be. What you see is what you get.
I can just tell you from my own experience. For better or for worse, there are a lot of coaches from around the country who guaranteed me a starting job when I was going through my transfer process. Coach Mac never did that. He was honest. He said, “Look, you’re going to have a chance to compete and that’s it. That’s all I can guarantee you.” You want somebody who’s going to be honest, truly honest. It’s rare. When you’ve got somebody like that, it’s really special and you keep those relationships with those coaches for a long time.
For example, I talk to Coach (Danny) Hope from Purdue, who was the guy who recruiting. Coach John Shoop was my offensive coordinator at Purdue – he’s one of my closest friends in coaching because of the way he opened up his family and the way that he was totally honest with me. He’s one of my favorite coaches of all time, and I feel the exact same way in year one with Coach Nuss and Coach Mac. For better or for worse, it’s not because they are better X’s and O’s and this or that, they’re honest. They truly care about you. You’re not just a pawn on a chessboard. That means a lot to kids. Long-term, you end up getting the right kids and you’re able to get the most out of them because those guys are willing to run through a wall for you.
That’s why Coach Mac has been able to get so much out of his team. He doesn’t even have all of the guys here – people still want to say this, but there are still Will Muschamp’s guys. How do you come in right away and get a locker room to buy into you? In a lot of places, they could say, “Screw you, Coach, we’re not your guy. We’re not going to listen to you.” He came in right away and said, “Hey guys, I care about you. Our job is to care about you, and your job as players is to care about each other.” It’s seen every day in the building and it’s totally unique and special. I think that’s why Coach Mac has so much success.
Check out more of Appleby's responses to subscribers' question here in the Alley as he answers questions about Feleipe Franks, Doug Nussmeier's offense and who he believes will start the season opener. Stay posted with us, as we'll post part two of Appleby's ITG subscriber Q&A, where he discusses Florida's running back rotation, the returning wide receivers on the roster and more.
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