Michigan named 34-year old Josh Gattis as offensive coordinator last week. The former Alabama co-coordinator for Nick Saban helped guide Tua Tagavailoa to the College Football Playoff Final.
Maize n’ Brew sat down with Erik Evans — Editor in Chief of SB Nation’s Alabama affiliate Roll ‘Bama Roll — to learn a bit more about the new leader of the Wolverine offense.
What style of offense schematically can we be expecting from Gattis? Which positions does he utilize the most?
Evans: Not to be glib, but I don’t think you can expect that Gattis will bring any of his offense along. First, he doesn’t really have one. He’s been an understudy at Penn State and Alabama, where the schemes were vertical, three and four-wide, with a lot of RPOs, power running, and some tempo.
While Harbaugh may have let Shea’s legs do a little more work this season, I think you’ve seen in the past four years that no matter the placard on the OC’s office, it’s still Jim’s offense. Don’t expect Air Blue or anything. Harbaugh’s a conservative guy. And in some ways it makes sense, even in the modern era.
When that kind of game isn’t clicking it puts a helluva’ lot of stress on a defense, and even more so in Michigan’s case, given Don Brown’s gambling style of play.
Take three playoff participants -- Alabama, Clemson, and Oklahoma -- all ran for 3,000 yards this season and had the best lines in the game: So you still have to win on the ground and in the trenches. The oldies but goodies still matter. Harbaugh will keep him grounded in that reality.
What type of player is he best at weaponizing?
Evans: Gattis was brought to Michigan for the same reason he was brought to Alabama (aside from recruiting): To maximize the elite wide receiver talent. The Wolverines have a ton of it, and some serious athleticism, on the outside that is not being used fully.
Again, will Harbaugh let him breathe, so to speak?
At Alabama five receivers had over 40 catches each, over 700 yards a piece, six-plus touchdowns, and Jerry Jeudy won the Biletnikoff trophy. Admittedly, all were five-star talents, but Gattis did a great job with their route-running too -- there was fantastic separation, high-pointing, and smart play by the outside guys all season.
Hypothetically, would you have been comfortable with Saban moving him to full OC after Mike Locksley left for Maryland?
Evans: This isn’t sour grapes: I’m sad to see Josh Gattis go. Whatever “it” is, he has it. He reminds me of Jeremy Pruitt the way he communicates with players and in the way that teaches. Outstanding young coach. But, no. He was not in any way ready to be an offensive coordinator at a blue blood program.
Dan Enos, who called excellent offenses at Arkansas and with Mike Locksley, was. And that seemed to be Saban’s contingency plan all along. Let Enos be the OC, with Gattis as co-OC (Then Enos fell apart over money and hiring authority.) So, I expect Gattis will have a tutelage under Harbaugh. Like Saban’s defensive guys, we know whose offense this will be at the end of the day. In this case, however, it is probably warranted.
It’s not just the game-planning and scheme -- it’s getting a feeling for the flow of a game too. That takes time and snaps and a lot of different looks. And he simply hasn’t had those yet.
What are Gattis’ biggest strengths?
Evans: First and foremost, he excels as a recruiter and teacher. He was invaluable in Alabama’s DMV/New Jersey pipeline, and then did outstanding things with the guys when they were in the program.
What are some of his weaknesses?
Evans: Experience, we’ve touched upon. So, I’ll go ahead and add perhaps ambition, too. You don’t turn down that kind of program and that kind of promotion, you simply don’t (as OC at Michigan). Let’s be clear.
But at some point there has to be a realization that you don’t yet have the coaching chops either (a lesson Alabama’s Tosh Lupoi could have take to heart.) Why does this come up?
Because you can easily see him bolting in a year for a head coaching job. Love him, appreciate his recruiting and developmental work, but don’t expect him to be there long-term either.
How well do you think Gattis will fit in with Harbaugh and his antics?
Evans: How will Gattis handle Harbaugh? LOL. Seen Nick Saban?
It could not have been easy to go from the laissez-faire gig he had under James Franklin to then go work for one of the most notoriously difficult coaches in the game. Saban’s demands on assistants are legendary.
I expect he’ll settle in just fine at Michigan with that tenure under his belt. But, again, he’s plainly an ambitious young guy. I don’t see him sticking around and chafing for very long before he bolts to whatever MAC or AAC team hates their 2-year coach the most by Christmas.
Does this change your immediate reception of the Gattis hiring?
This poll is closed