“I was blessed at the same time to have a lot of opportunities to choose from,” Gattis said on the In the Trenches podcast with Jon Jansen, admitting it was hard to reveal the news to Locksley, with whom he worked at Alabama. “When this opportunity came open and Coach Harbaugh reached out, it was a no-brainer in my mind.
“This was just … a prized opportunity. When I got the phone call, I couldn’t have been more thankful for the opportunity he’s given to me and my family, and I look forward to being a part of this family.”
Gattis helped coordinate an Alabama offense that went from No. 29 to No. 6 in a year, and he’s known as an outstanding receivers coach. He tweeted that he’s anxious to get the ball in his playmakers’ hands in space and wants explosive plays, and Harbaugh has told him he’s in charge.
The tweet elicited positive reaction from U-M receivers and recruits alike, just as Gattis hoped it would.
“I’m pretty confident in the fingerprint we’re going to be able to leave,” Gattis said. “We’re going to do it together. This isn’t going to be about Josh Gattis’ offense. This is going to be about Michigan’s offense.
“The best teams that I’ve been around are all player-led teams. They’re player-driven. This is going to be a fun, exciting brand. The fingerprint you saw at the University of Alabama and what we were able to do incorporating some of the RPOs [run-pass option] and some of the spread system, you’re going to see a lot of that show up here at the University of Michigan, but it’s going to be about the buy-in of our guys. It’s going to be a total new offense.”
U-M ran some RPO, read option and more last year, but the offense sputtered against the better teams on the schedule. Some complained that Harbaugh wasn’t taking advantage of his weapons, and even junior quarterback Shea Patterson said after the season he hoped they’d open it up more in 2019.
That appears to be Gattis’ plan.
“Football is football, but it’s going to be our job as the offensive staff here at the University of Michigan and make sure to put our best skill players in the best position to be successful,” he said. “We’re going to be great teachers, we’re going to be great developers, but we’re also going to put our players in the best position to be successful. And that’s something that we’re going to take tremendous pride on as an offensive staff.”
Gattis has already become familiar with U-M’s personnel. While he’s going to be hard to impress given the wealth of talent he worked with at Alabama, he’s impressed with what he has to work with.
“All the pieces are here,” Gattis said. “I’m excited about what we have, the depth we have at the O-line position, the depth we have at tight end. Obviously, our quarterback room is very talented, and we have good skill in our running backs and our receivers.
“I truly believe we have all the pieces we need to put this puzzle together. It’s going to be a group deal; it’s going to be a group effort. It’s going to come with some hard work, some belief and some trust in this offensive coaching staff and the plan we’re going to put in place for them. But ultimately, we’re going to make sure we put these kids in the best position to be successful. If we can do that, we’re going to put Michigan in the best position to win. That’s our ultimate goal.”
It will remain balanced, he insisted, just as it was last year. But it’s also likely to look much different. U-M’s receiver stable, for example, appears to be the strength of the team, and he wants to get each one involved.
“We’re going to put answers on everything to allow our kids to be successful, but if we’ve got multiple wide receivers, we’re going to find a way – as most people have heard me – to get our speed in space,” he said. “If we’ve got tight ends that step up, and those guys can create mismatches in the run game and also in the pass game, we’re going to be playing in 12 personnel. So we’re going to have the ability to do everything. We’re not going to just be single-minded and say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re going to do; we’re going to force our players to do one thing.’
“The neat thing about our offense that I’m bringing is the flexibility among the offense. That’s one of the things that a lot of people saw this past year at the University of Alabama – how well we used our talent. And really, when you look at my track record over the past few years, it’s how well we spread the ball around. How much diversity we have on the offensive side.
“I think that’s what you mean when you say you’re balanced. It’s not so much, ‘Hey, we’re going to be 50/50 run (and pass),’ but we’re going to be balanced and run when we need to run; we’re going to throw when we need to throw. We’re going to be balanced in the number of touches that we distribute among our playmakers. Because ultimately, if we can get our best playmakers the ball, we’re going to be in a position to be successful.”