It has been another long college football offseason. The MLB All-Star break has come and gone and it’s about that time where the Detroit Tigers tank for the top overall pick in next year’s draft. And it’s also the time I get sick of baseball because of those damn Tigers.
It’s also that time where I look ahead to Michigan football and what is on the docket for the upcoming season. There are tons of things to talk about, and plenty of them will be discussed today during Jim Harbaugh’s press conference at Big Ten Media Days.
Here are my top three storylines for the Wolverines heading into the 2019 season.
Josh Gattis is changing Michigan’s offense in a big way
After the Peach Bowl blowout in December, change was imminent for Michigan’s offense.
The fans wanted it. The media had written and talked about it. Jim Harbaugh knew it. Change was badly needed.
Well, the times they are a’ changin’ in Ann Arbor. It did not take Harbaugh long after that loss to Florida to hire offensive coordinator Josh Gattis.
In the past, a lot of Harbaugh’s hires have been “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” But not this time. Gattis is a breath of fresh air. Someone not plucked from the Harbaugh coaching tree, like Tim Drevno and Pep Hamilton.
Gattis brought excitement to the fan base with his Speed in Space mantra, and then excited the fan base even more by displaying it during the spring game. Getting explosive athletes in space is exactly what Gattis is bringing to the table. Harbaugh has given complete control to Gattis, and if you don’t believe it by now, I don’t know what to tell you.
No more grounding and pounding. No more bleeding the clock away. No more relying on the defense to hold opponents to 17 points or less. Change is here. And it is a change the Wolverines have needed since Jedd Fisch left after the 2016 season.
A defense without Bush, Gary, Winovich
Over the last two seasons, Wolverine fans have been blessed to watch Devin Bush, Rashan Gary and Chase Winovich wreck havoc on opposing players. Now, all three are gone and Don Brown has some starting roles to fill.
Luckily, Michigan is in good hands. On the edge, I expect Kwity Paye, Aidan Hutchinson, Josh Uche and Luiji Vilain to all step up. Will any of them be as good as Gary or Winovich? Time will tell, but those four should be expected to contribute early and often.
Replacing Bush, however, is basically impossible. He is arguably the best linebacker in Michigan history. His sideline-to-sideline speed and off-the-charts football IQ are unbelievable. The dude was all Michigan through and through, and the Pittsburgh Steelers are lucky to have him now.
With that, I say good luck to Josh Ross, as he will likely take over at MIKE. That leaves Devin Gil the full-time job at WILL, after splitting it with Ross for all of 2018.
The defense should still be really, really good. Top 10 good. Will it remain a top three defense like Brown has had every season in Ann Arbor? We will see.
Will Michigan finally beat Ohio State?
This has been a storyline ever since Harbaugh came to town. The immediate, and somewhat unfair, expectations for Michigan under Harbaugh were wins over Ohio State, winning Big Ten Championships regularly and taking trips to the College Football Playoff.
We are heading into 2019 and none of those things have happened yet.
Defeating Ohio State unlocks the possibility of Michigan getting to Indy and the CFP. Both 2016 and 2018 were really good chances for the Wolverines to get it done, but neither game went in their favor.
This year should also be another good chance. The game is played at the friendly confines of Michigan Stadium. The Wolverines are equipped with a veteran quarterback, offensive line and wide receivers. The defense took some hits with the aforementioned Bush, Gary and Winovich, but the players in waiting provide a solid reload.
So will this finally be the year Michigan gets it done? We’ll have to wait until Nov. 30 to see.
Be sure to follow along with our coverage of Big Ten Media Days today, as our own Trevor Woods will be there asking questions and reporting on it all.