Age is relative.
An NFL quarterback in their mid-30’s is deemed old.
But a coach in their mid-30’s? They’re young!
With that relativity in mind, Michigan’s coaching staff had itself a youth movement over the past week with the additions of offensive coordinator Josh Gattis, defensive assistant (will coach LB’s or Safeties) Anthony Campanile, and defensive line coach Shaun Nua.
There are some old coaches well into their 60’s who can relate well to high school recruits (look at Don Brown), but then there are others where there’s a clear disconnect between them and the players in the locker room. No matter how young or old a coach is, it’s important to be able to relate to those they’re working with, and in this case, the players they’re coaching.
Don’t take my word for it, listen to head coach Jim Harbaugh who said this about the hirings:
On Nua: “Shaun is a rising star in the coaching profession. He is well-respected among his peers, relates well with the student-athletes that he mentors and brings great passion and energy to his work.”
On Gattis: “Josh will provide leadership to our offense while being a great mentor to our student-athletes”
On Campanile: “Our student-athletes will benefit greatly from his mentorship.”
Is this coach-speak? You can always say it is, but what he said about Nua is telling; that Nua relates well with student athletes and brings great passion and energy to his work. The same can likely be said about all three of these hires.
What Harbaugh did was bring in up and coming coaches who have something to prove and want to keep on ascending, he brought in coaches who are fiery. Whether the hires pan out or not remains to be seen, but I feel Michigan bringing some fairly young coaches on board was a good idea.
As Andre Agassi would say...
That statement is more true than false. And when it comes to Gattis, Campanile, and Nua, they all are still physically fit former players.
Nua played four seasons in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gattis was a safety for the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars for a couple years, and Campanile played linebacker and safety at Rutgers.
All three are still young enough to do some running around with the players, show them how to do things in drills and really be able to sell it. Talk the talk while walking the walk.
Fun Fact: As head coach the University of San Diego in his first season there, Jim Harbaugh would run laps with the players, and being in his late 30’s and only a few years removed from being an NFL quarterback, Harbaugh was the one leading the pack and tiring out the young bucks. I bring this fact up because sometimes you can gain respect from young athletes by the physical shape you’re in, the toughness you exhibit. If image is everything then Campanile, Gattis, and Nua have some things going in their favor.
Then there’s the personable side of what makes a coach good and relatable. I don’t believe there is one high school recruit who wants a coach coming to their home and talking to them like some sort of insurance salesman or school counselor. Kids want to be respected, they want to be treated as an adult, but not every coach knows how to do that effectively while still being respected and a mentor.
Some coaches just can’t relate. Some just aren’t cool. They may be fine men and know the game of football, but other coaches can have an edge if they’re cooler. That might not be fair, but it’s true. If you aren’t Alabama, you can’t have coaches on the recruiting trail like this and land the biggest fishes in the sea:
You need a coach like this:
For Michigan’s sake, for the sake of entertainment, I want to see Josh Gattis chest bumping Shea Patterson in 2019, I want to see Shaun Nua look like the Hulk just got angry (see picture below).
Being relatable is huge at the NCAA level, it’s all about getting the players and recruits to buy in to what they’re trying to convey. Being relatable usually means the players are more inclined to give them their all on the field and their complete attention in the film room.
Along with the youth these coaches have, expect plenty of new ideas to be thrown around. Gattis said it’s going to be a total new offense at Michigan. Gattis wasn’t brought in to just coach, he was brought in to shake things up schematically, too. Expect the same (to a lesser extent) from Nua and Campanile, who both should be able to give their ideas and perhaps implement some of them if they’re in the best interest of Michigan’s defense.
The new and ‘youthful’ additions on Michigan’s coaching staff were needed, and if the theories outlined in this piece are more accurate than not, promising days could be ahead for the Michigan program, on Saturday’s and on the recruiting trail.