The college football offseason — some call it silly season — is in full swing.
Michigan football lost two coaches this week and gained two others, and the coaching carousel isn’t done spinning. Let’s get to the Ask Nick mailbag.
Do you think this will still be (Jim Harbaugh’s) offense (and people will) have to deal with it? Or do you think the new hire (of Josh Gattis) indicates a transition from that? — @bradelders
Harbaugh’s offense morphs, believe it or not. There’s rarely been wholesale change from year-to-year, but his offense has featured schematic diversity throughout his coaching career. His tenure at Michigan has been no different.
He gets labeled as a stubborn coach. Sometimes that’s fair. Plenty of times it’s not. When Harbaugh has worked with coaches who bring fresh perspective, you usually see those wrinkles shine through during the course of a season. It happened with Jedd Fisch, who first met Harbaugh the second he stepped off the plane in Michigan back in 2015. It happened plenty this past season with Ed Warinner, who modernized and overhauled Michigan’s run game.
New coordinator Josh Gattis has never been a primary play-caller. It has been reported he’ll have that responsibility at Michigan, though nothing has been confirmed by Harbaugh. Gattis has never been in complete charge of an offense as a coordinator. Whether or not he gets total control in Ann Arbor remains to be seen.
Based on evidence, it’s difficult to believe Harbaugh will turn over all offensive keys and step aside for Gattis, who turns 35 years old Tuesday. But Harbaugh is not as predictable as some think. Almost no one saw this hire coming, for example, until it was finalized.
That said, there are two things here that stand out: Gattis has no connection to Harbaugh’s coaching tree, and he’s proof that Harbaugh, at the very least, has admitted to himself there are fundamental things about the way Michigan approaches offense that have to change.
The hire brings fresh perspective. Gattis worked with Joe Moorhead, who is one of the best offensive minds in football, at Penn State. Gattis learned under Bill Cubit, whose teams threw the ball all over the place. Gattis didn’t call plays at Alabama, but he worked in a system that morphed from a powerful ball-control unit to an explosive tempo-based unit that allowed its athletes to attack all corners of the field.
Michigan’s best offensive players next year will be receivers Donovan Peoples-Jones, Nico Collins and Tarik Black, along with quarterback Shea Patterson. The offense has to revolve around those guys. Perhaps this is a step toward that.
Entering next season with a plan of prioritizing ball control over athletes in space can’t happen.
We don’t know what Gattis’ offense looks like because he has never had the opportunity to create one. How much autonomy will he have? Harbaugh will be involved in what Michigan does offensively until he’s no longer coaching here, whenever that is. But he’s willing to change and evolve. That’s the most important thing right now.
How it all works remains to be seen.
Anointing people before they’ve done anything in a new situation is always dangerous.
But some change is happening with Michigan’s offense. That’s notable.
Is (Michigan’s) coaching staff better or worse after this week? — @Hey_Boz
That’s an impossible question to answer now, as interesting as it might be.
Michigan lost Greg Mattison and Al Washington to Ohio State this week. Mattison is one of the best defensive line coaches in the country, and both he and Washington were noted recruiters in the state of Ohio that are no longer here.
Gattis and new defensive assistant Anthony Campanile have reputations as great recruiters. Gattis in the DMV (Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area and Campanile in New Jersey and the northeast.
During the 2019 cycle, 247Sports rated Gattis as the No. 23 recruiter in the country during his stint at Alabama, perhaps the most powerful recruiting brand in the sport. Campanile ranked No. 123 at Boston College, nowhere near as strong a brand. Washington was No. 85, Mattison was No. 143 — and Michigan’s brand is plenty strong.
From a recruiting standpoint, Michigan countered two losses with two nice gains. Maybe not in the state of Ohio, but in the country at large.
As far as coaching and development goes? Mattison’s legit and established. That’s a blow. Washington’s 34 and in the early stage of his career, so the jury’s still out. The same can probably be said for both Gattis and Campanile, who are both in their 30s.
We’ll have a better answer to this in a year or so.
Listen to the latest episode of The Michigan Rant podcast
What else does (Brandon) Johns have to do to get some PT? After IU I thought we would see him be the next big after Teske. — @jacob_lumsden
This is all practice-based and coach John Beilein does this with freshmen all the time. He’s clearly trying to hammer home that Johns needs to not only carry over consistency every day, but practice during every segment like he played in that Indiana game where he had eight points and eight rebounds in 13 minutes.
I, too, was a bit surprised Beilein went with Austin Davis briefly over Johns in the Illinois game. But I wasn’t expecting to see double-digit minutes for Johns unless foul trouble arrived. Earning trust in Beilein’s rotation can be very difficult.
Johns will have to stack more days like that in practice. He’ll have to stack more games like that Indiana performance when he gets a chance. He’s not the first freshman to go through this, and he won’t be the last.
Contact Nick Baumgardner: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter nickbaumgardner.
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