With the offseason in full swing for Michigan, the Wolverines have a new offensive coordinator in Josh Gattis. Read what’s being said about that hire and more:
“In terms of the simple question, is Josh Gattis a good hire for Michigan? Yes, absolutely. He’s long been viewed as a rising star in the profession. He now has experience with innovative, RPO-driven offenses at both Penn State and Alabama. Though he’ll be a first-time play caller, he’s learned from two really good ones in Joe Moorhead and Mike Locksley. And of course, he’s a proven receivers coach and recruiter on top of that.
Now, will Harbaugh really hand over complete control of his offense to a first-time play caller with a completely different approach? I guess we’ll find out. Sometimes coaches say that’s the plan, until the first time they get into a game and he disagrees with something, and then he’s back making the calls. Other times, however, it works out great. A particularly relevant example here: Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly the last two seasons has given OC Chip Long more autonomy than anyone he’s previously had.
That is notable given that at the time Kelly hired him from Memphis, Long was a 33-year-old Group of 5 assistant who’d been a play caller for one season. Gattis will be a 35-year-old first-time play caller
But there’s another important factor to keep in mind with Michigan. No matter the scheme, no matter the play calls, the single most important requirement to be a national championship contender in 2019 is you absolutely have to have explosive athletes — like Clemson, Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State, etc., have in abundance. That’s not generally been the case for Michigan under Harbaugh. The Wolverines do have three highly regarded receivers returning in Donovan Peoples-Jones, Tarik Black and Nico Collins, but I’m not sure they have anything close to a Josh Jacobs or Travis Etienne in their backfield.
But they do have a decent quarterback, Shea Patterson, well-suited for the RPO-driven offense Gattis likely has in mind. I’m curious to see how it plays out.”
“Getting the right person on the bus. Someone who could coordinate our offense and run the whole offense,” Harbaugh said on his show, published Tuesday. “Very excited about that. We got better. I’ve watched Josh long enough to know and we talked and have the same philosophy, really, offensively. which I like. I like the idea of him running it.”
That’ll pass the smell test for most Michigan fans: Harbaugh giving control of his offense to a coordinator, allowing for better overall organization, efficiency and, perhaps, production. The “philosophy” comment might be in the eye of the beholder, but that’s fine.
Gattis’ initial answer probably didn’t disappoint either. He used the words “explosive” and “tempo” along with the phrase “skill players” almost immediately. Again: That’ll please many people.
“We want to be an explosive offense,” Gattis said. “We’re not going to get away from some of the base foundation we truly believe in with the run game … but it’s also about getting our skill players involved. We want to dictate the game not only from a tempo or style of play standpoint but dictate how teams view us.”
This all sounded like it was from a public relations manual directed at how to calm a group of angst-ridden fans. Music to their ears. It was more than that, of course.
But entering Year 5 of the Harbaugh era, we’re going to have to see something to believe it.
The idea Harbaugh is willing to concede that Michigan’s offensive operation, at the very least, needed fresh perspective is the most important thing to happen to the program so far this offseason. In nine months when the season is underway, it still might be the most important thing……
But Michigan appears at least committed to the idea of modernizing its pace of play and approach to allowing its best athletes — Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins, Tarik Black — work with Shea Patterson as the centerpiece of an offense that turtled in favor of a time of possession battle on the biggest stages last season.
But now we’ve got to see it executed.
Michigan made so much progress from games 2-11 last season in terms of scheme and approach offensively. Teams without as much talent were routinely back on their heels and Michigan took advantage. The Wolverines spent the entire 2018 offseason talking about how much this offense was going to change. It did change. But when the lights were brightest, everything reverted back to a conservative approach that only works when you’re better at all 11 spots on the field.”
“The Wolverines lost two very good recruiters when defensive line coach Greg Mattison and linebackers coach Al Washington both left for Ohio State. Adding Gattis to the staff will go a long way in recruiting as they are adding back in a young, energetic and talented recruiter. Gattis had a hand in landing five-star receiver Justin Shorter at Penn State as well as ESPN 300 defensive lineman Antonio Alfano among others at Alabama.
As offensive coordinator, Gattis has an opportunity to work with an offense that returns all but two starters in running back Karon Higdon and lineman Juwann Bushell-Beatty. The knock on Michigan last season was that the offense wasn’t utilizing its personnel to its fullest and that it could benefit from play-calling to help get its players in space and create more opportunities for big plays
Gattis is coming from his co-offensive coordinator post at Alabama where the Tide ranked No. 6 in offensive yards per game, No. 2 in yards per play and sixth in passing yards per game. Michigan was ranked 49th in yards per game, 42nd in yards per play and 79th in pass yards per game.
It seems likely Gattis could have the biggest impact in the passing game, especially because his specialty has been working with wide receivers. He will have the opportunity to work with Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black at Michigan as well as ESPN 300 wide receiver Cornelius Johnson and four-star receivers Mike Sainristil and Giles Jackson in the 2019 class.”
“The good news: Lavert Hill is back after a First Team All-Big Ten season. Hill has started 25 games at corner, and though he likely would have been an NFL Draft pick, he is returning to build on the past two years and maybe become a first-day selection. Hill isn’t a true ballhawk (he has three career interceptions), but he’s a stingy shutdown corner. He’s listed at 5-11, 181, but he’s crafty enough to match up well with nearly any Big Ten receiver (though feel free to insert your joke about Ohio State and crossing patterns here).
The bad news: Long, Hill’s counterpart in shutting down opposing passing games, is going pro. That leaves a spot open. And there’s not a real frontrunner to fill it. Brandon Watson, who is graduated, played the majority of snaps at nickel, so there’s also not another Wolverine with a ton of legit game experience at this position.
Ambry Thomas hasn’t seen a ton of meaningful snaps, but he has the most game experience and even has an interception under his belt. A long list of other young players will be competing for this job. Myles Sims earned a lot of praise in camp last fall, and there seems to be positive vibes around Vincent Gray and Gemon Green.
All that said, the battle for Michigan’s No. 2 corner spot could be the team’s most notable — and most wide-open — battle in fall camp.”
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